Rus­sia seethes over Poland’s $2 bil­lion pro­posal for U.S. mil­i­tary base

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY BEN WOLFGANG

Rus­sia threat­ened re­tal­i­a­tion af­ter news that Poland wants a per­ma­nent U.S. mil­i­tary base within its bor­ders and is will­ing to pay up to $2 bil­lion for the fa­cil­ity.

The pro­posal for an Amer­i­can base touched off a rhetor­i­cal firestorm be­tween Moscow and War­saw, as lead­ers from both sides traded threats and cast a fresh spot­light on sim­mer­ing ten­sions in East­ern Europe.

U.S. of­fi­cials had no im­me­di­ate com­ment on the Pol­ish plan, but Moscow seized the op­por­tu­nity last week — on an oth­er­wise quiet Me­mo­rial Day in Wash­ing­ton — to push back hard against po­ten­tial at­tempts by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to bol­ster the U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence in the re­gion.

“These ex­pan­sion­ist steps, cer­tainly, re­sult in coun­ter­ac­tions of the Rus­sian side to bal­ance the par­ity which is vi­o­lated ev­ery time this way,” Krem­lin spokesper­son Dmitry Peskov told re­porters in Moscow.

A key Rus­sian se­na­tor went fur­ther, sug­gest­ing Poland would make it­self a tar­get if the plan for a per­ma­nent Amer­i­can base comes to fruition.

Poland will be­come “the ob­ject of a re­tal­ia­tory strike,” said Vladimir Dzhabarov, who serves on the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil’s For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, ac­cord­ing to Rus­sian me­dia.

State Depart­ment of­fi­cials de­clined to com­ment, beyond say­ing U.S. of­fi­cials were aware of the re­ports and mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion, which comes less than a year af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump visited War­saw and spoke of a “spe­cial bond” be­tween the U.S. and Poland.

Poland’s pro­posal also comes three months af­ter Moscow de­ployed ad­vanced nu­clear-ca­pa­ble Iskan­der mis­siles to Kalin­ingrad, a slice of Rus­sia wedged be­tween Poland and Lithua­nia.

Pol­ish of­fi­cials made no se­cret of their mo­ti­va­tions, ar­gu­ing that a per­ma­nent U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence in Poland would act as a check against Rus­sia.

A doc­u­ment out­lin­ing the base pro­posal was first re­ported on and pub­lished by the Pol­ish news site Onet.

The doc­u­ment cites Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea in 2014, its sup­port of Syr­ian dic­ta­tor Bashar As­sad, its cy­ber­at­tacks against the U.S. dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cy­cle, and other ac­tions as proof that steps must be taken to push back against Moscow’s ag­gres­sive stance.

“Per­ma­nent U.S. troops in Poland will send a clear mes­sage to Rus­sia of U.S. sup­port for its East­ern Euro­pean al­lies,” the Pol­ish De­fense Min­istry said in the pro­posal.

“Poland’s com­mit­ment to pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant sup­port that may reach $1.5 bil­lion - $2 bil­lion by es­tab­lish­ing joint mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions and pro­vide for more flex­i­ble move­ment of U.S. forces,” the doc­u­ment said. “To­gether, the United States and Poland can build an even stronger bond — one which guar­an­tees the safety, se­cu­rity and free­dom of its peo­ple for gen­er­a­tions to come.”

By of­fer­ing to pay in full for the con­struc­tion of the base, the Pol­ish plan fits with Pres­i­dent Trump’s call for NATO members — Poland has been a mem­ber since 1999 — to beef up their own fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tions to the al­liance.

The of­fer also comes at a mo­ment when War­saw ap­pears to be cozy­ing up to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on other in­ter­na­tional mat­ters, most no­tably the Iran nu­clear deal.

Most Euro­pean of­fi­cials over the past sev­eral days have tried to find ways to keep the Obama-era nu­clear deal alive as the U.S. eyes eco­nomic sanc­tions against Euro­pean com­pa­nies and oth­ers do­ing busi­ness with Tehran.

But Pol­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Jacek Cza­putow­icz made head­lines Mon­day by stat­ing flatly that his coun­try op­poses any EU ac­tion that would weaken the im­pend­ing Amer­i­can sanc­tions — a move that could drive a wedge be­tween Poland and its Euro­pean al­lies but also curry fa­vor with the White House.

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