October 08, 2018

Fort Trump Is a Farce

By Jim Townsend

Last month, Polish President Andrzej Duda asked U.S. President Donald Trump to build a military base in Poland and even offered to pay $2 billion for it. Savvy to the workings of the U.S. president’s heart, he suggested the name Fort Trump.

A permanent U.S. military presence in Poland has been a top priority for a succession of Polish presidents. Duda saw his chance and went for it. Trump said he would look “very seriously” at the proposal, which is more than the Poles have gotten from past U.S. presidents. Does he have any idea that Fort Trump could be even harder and more expensive to build than his wall on the Mexican border?

Like Trump’s Space Force, the idea of Fort Trump is easy to mock. But also like the Space Force, the underlying issue is a serious one, and a U.S. military facility of some type in Poland has been under the microscope in the U.S. Defense Department since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014. The Poles are pushing for a base that could house a U.S. armored division—that’s thousands of soldiers. Congress is interested in the issue too: The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act instructed the Pentagon to prepare a report on stationing troops in Poland.

Since the end of the Cold War, Poland has been anxious about the return of Russian domination. Given the country’s history of occupation by Russia, that’s understandable. The Poles trust the United States more than the United Nations, NATO, or the European Union to keep the Russians out. Warsaw’s insurance policy is U.S. skin in the game—if it could get a big, 1950s-style U.S. base in Poland full of troops, their dependents, and the staples of U.S. bases around the world—a Post Exchange shopping center and a baseball field—the United States would be even quicker to send in the cavalry if Poland were attacked. To some Polish strategists, it is not the military utility of a U.S. base that is important, but the American hostages the base would represent should the Russians appear on the horizon.

Washington has had to deal with this Polish paranoia since the Warsaw Pact ended in 1991. In 1999, Poland was one of the first former Warsaw Pact countries to join NATO; in fact, it was Poland that clamored the loudest to join, which was critical in pushing the organization to consider enlargement. But the Poles soon realized that NATO was focused more on the Balkans than on Russia—this was long before the invasion of Georgia in 2008—and was not quite the military giant they had originally assumed it was. So, Warsaw fastened its sights on the United States and began to search for ways to keep the Americans from wandering away.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy.

  • Podcast
    • August 10, 2022
    The Latest Phase of the War in Ukraine, with Mike Kofman and Jeff Edmonds

    Has the war in Ukraine reached a critical turning point? Mike Kofman and Jeff Edmonds join Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to discuss the evolution of the military situ...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend, Michael Kofman & Jeffrey Edmonds

  • Podcast
    • August 5, 2022
    Political Churn in Europe, with Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook and Max Bergmann

    What do the recent upheavals in European politics mean for the future of transatlantic cooperation? Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook and Max Bergmann join Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend, Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook & Max Bergmann

  • Podcast
    • July 27, 2022
    Ukraine's Window of Opportunity?

    With military circles abuzz that Ukraine might be preparing to launch a counter-offensive against Russian-held Kherson, Michael Kofman of CNA’s Russia team joins War on the Ro...

    By Michael Kofman

  • Podcast
    • July 25, 2022
    The State of EU-China Relations, with Noah Barkin and Francesca Ghiretti

    What have been the latest key developments in EU-China relations? Noah Barkin and Francesca Ghiretti join Carisa Nietsche and Jim Townsend to discuss milestones in the relatio...

    By Carisa Nietsche, Jim Townsend, Noah Barkin & Francesca Ghiretti

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia