America is beginning to fulfill President Barack Obama’s promise made on June 4, 2014 in Warsaw that Poland will never stand alone.
The U.S. is planning to establish logistical bases in our part of Europe and will station military equipment for 5,000 troops there. An article in Saturday’s New York Times and confirmation of American intentions by Tomasz Siemoniak, Polish minister of national defense, indicate that the matter has already reached the political decision stage.
The plan, announced at the NATO Summit in September 2014 in Newport and by the American military, including Gen. Philip Breedlove, supreme allied commander Europe of NATO Allied Command Operations, awaits the signature of U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.
It is practically certain that such a base or bases will be located in Poland. According to unofficial information, Polish and American offices are secretly discussing whether the place where American equipment will be stationed will be the training ground of Żagań-Świętoszów, Drawsko Pomorskie, or both.
Before our eyes, influenced by Russian aggression in Crimea and Donbass, an extensive revision of the U.S. and NATO strategic doctrine is underway. It’s a fundamental change. Back in in January 2012, President Obama and then U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta declared that due to cutbacks, two out of four American brigades in Europe would remain – a total of 20,000 to 25,000 soldiers. In March 2013, the last American M-1 Abrams tank in Europe departed from the German port in Bremerhaven. It was considered that U.S. Army tanks were no longer needed on a safe European continent.
Now, in response to Russian imperialist policy, American tanks are coming back. On Feb. 27, during military training, U.S. Operation Atlantic Resolve marched in the Estonian city of Narva, next to the Russian border. Riga Mayor Nils Ušakovs, of Russian descent by the way, was taking selfies in front of the Abrams.
The concept of creating logistic bases is a response to the Russian concept of a hybrid war. A year ago, Europe was defenseless against actions such as Vladimir Putin’s activity in Crimea. Yes, it was possible to re-deploy 12 F-16 planes to Poland in three days and a company of paratroopers in a month. Nevertheless, Putin and his staff officers knew that Eastern Europe would have to wait up to six months for the transfer of heavy equipment.
Now the situation is changing. Equipment will be waiting in our part of Europe for the American soldiers, who may even travel on commercial flights. Furthermore, U.S. soldiers will continuously train on Polish territory. They will be using the equipment and getting to know the geographical and climate conditions of the region, together with employing the concept of “spearhead,” units ready for immediate response in case of an emergency concerning a country belonging to NATO.
For years, the entire Polish political spectrum has been claiming that our status in NATO is incomplete because of the NATO-Russia Founding Act in 1997, the Alliance which made a commitment not to have bases in the new member states. Some of the NATO countries, including some in our region, i.e., the Czech Republic, still oppose permanent bases in Eastern Europe.
The American plan to establish logistic bases makes this discussion largely pointless. After all, the U.S. is not in any way violating the agreement between NATO and Russia—it refers to the deployment of significant military forces and not to the equipment—while it is also providing a strong allied presence on our territory.
The right answer to the eternal question concerning Polish security policy, “Where is NATO?” will soon be: “On the Vistula River.”