WASHINGTON – United States President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he will send “about 1,000” more US troops to Poland, half the number he had mentioned an hour earlier when he welcomed his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, to the White House.
At a joint press conference with Duda, Trump said that the troops will be housed at a base financed completely by Poland and revealed that the European country plans to buy 32 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter combat aircraft from the United States.
Shortly before that, upon welcoming Duda to the White House, Trump had said that he was considering sending “2,000 soldiers” to Poland, but he corrected that figure after signing a defense agreement with the Polish leader.
Trump said that the US and Poland were opening up a new phase in their relationship.
The troops will augment the 4,500 US soldiers already stationed in Poland as part of the agreement reached in 2016 with NATO as a response to Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, a territory that is considered to be Ukrainian territory by the US and other European countries.
Neither Trump nor Duda provided details about when the US troops would be sent to Poland, although the US president had said at the start of their meeting that the soldiers will be simply redeployed from their present bases in Germany, and thus “additional troops” will not actually be sent to Europe from the US.
Meanwhile, Trump said that he is “seriously” considering visiting Poland this year, adding that the two governments signed on Wednesday a crime prevention pact designed to clear the way for the European country to quickly enter the US visa exemption program.
Trump said that decision probably would be made within the next 90 days, referring to the possibility of allowing Polish citizens to visit the US without needing a visa for a maximum of three months.
After answering questions from reporters in the Oval Office, Trump and Duda went out onto the White House lawn to watch a brief flyover by two F-35 jets, a maneuver by which the administration wanted to thank Warsaw for its purchase of the 32 top-of-the-line warplanes.
“They’re going to put on a very small show for us and we’re doing that because Poland has ordered 32 or 35 brand new F-35s at the highest level,” Trump told reporters.
Since he took office in 2015, nationalist Duda has increased Poland’s defense spending, in part to buy military equipment manufactured by US firms, and he has also tried to get the US to agree to having a greater military presence in his country with an eye toward dissuading Russia from any kind of adventurism or political aggression in the region.
When Duda was in the US last September, he proposed building in Poland a large permanent US military base to be named “Fort Trump.”
When asked about that on Wednesday, Trump said that no final decision had yet been made regarding the base, but he added that if it is built it will be a very well-located base that will have great facilities.