Mil­i­tary pro­posal cir­cum­vents NATO

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitic­s - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

For a man who built a bil­lion-dol­lar brand around the use of his name on ev­ery­thing from steaks to casi­nos and high-rises be­fore com­ing to the White House, Pres­i­dent Trump is now look­ing at a po­ten­tial mil­i­tary deal with Poland he will find hard to refuse.

The Pol­ish gov­ern­ment’s re­quest for a per­ma­nent U.S. base in their coun­try — a fa­cil­ity they would call “Fort Trump” and have vowed to pay some $2 bil­lion to­ward — is the lat­est ex­am­ple of how some Eastern Euro­pean coun­tries are rush­ing to cozy up to Mr. Trump while re­la­tion­ships de­te­ri­o­rate be­tween the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent and tra­di­tional Euro­pean pow­ers such as France and Ger­many.

Re­gional an­a­lysts say Poland’s po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship sees Mr. Trump as an ally on is­sues such as na­tional sovereignt­y and mi­gra­tion, and wants to use that ide­o­log­i­cal align­ment to per­ma­nently ce­ment its re­la­tion­ship with the U.S. in the se­cu­rity realm.

But the of­fer of “Fort Trump” does come with sig­nif­i­cant pol­icy strings. Its bi­lat­eral na­ture would rep­re­sent a fun­da­men­tal change in the U.S. mil­i­tary’s tra­di­tion­ally broader ap­proach to­ward Euro­pean de­fense.

There also are sen­si­tive geopo­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions. The base would surely deepen ten­sions be­tween Washington and Moscow be­cause War­saw is mak­ing no se­cret of its de­sire to use it for iron­clad pro­tec­tion against po­ten­tial Russian mil­i­tary ag­gres­sion.

The deal on the ta­ble would be a di­rect U.S.-Pol­ish agree­ment that wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily go through for­mal NATO chan­nels. Re­gional an­a­lysts say that prospect could put the U.S. di­rectly on the hook for longterm costs and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of de­fend­ing Poland.

That fac­tor may not sit well with Mr. Trump, who has con­sis­tently urged NATO mem­ber states — Poland has been once since 1999 — to shoul­der more of the fi­nan­cial bur­den for their own se­cu­rity.

“Ac­cept­ing the Pol­ish of­fer with­out do­ing it through NATO would mean more di­rect U.S. re­sources for Euro­pean de­fense with­out any match­ing in­vest­ment by other NATO al­lies. This is counter to Trump’s pri­or­ity to make NATO al­lies less de­pen­dent on U.S. mil­i­tary as­sis­tance,” Jorge Ben­itez, a se­nior fel­low with the At­lantic Coun­cil, re­cently told the Ger­man-based news or­ga­ni­za­tion Deutsche Welle.

“Build­ing a U.S. base in Poland would be a step in the op­po­site di­rec­tion,” said Mr. Ben­itez. “It would make the U.S. uni­lat­er­ally more re­spon­si­ble for se­cu­rity near NATO’s bor­ders with Rus­sia.”

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