A Washington Post report that the US has decided to deploy ground forces to Poland, ostensibly to act as a tripwire to deter further Russian threats, raises some interesting issues.
Poland and the United States will announce next week the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Poland as part of an expansion of NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe in response to events in Ukraine. That was the word from Poland’s defense minister, Tomasz Siemoniak, who visited The Post Friday after meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon on Thursday.
Siemoniak said the decision has been made on a political level and that military planners are working out details. There will also be intensified cooperation in air defense, special forces, cyberdefense and other areas. Poland will play a leading regional role, “under U.S. patronage,” he said.
The first is why the story was leaked from a Polish source in an administration that almost always rushes to announce moves it wants to depict as decisive. It is almost as if Warsaw wanted to pre-empt Obama before he could have second thoughts.
The second issue is that Poland will be taking the lead “under US patronage”. Obama, as usual, will be leading from behind. The Washington Post story quotes the Poles as confessing that “US patronage” will be a hollow unless America re-arms. Here is how the WaPo put it:
But the defense minister also said that any immediate NATO response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, while important, matter less than a long-term shift in the defense postures of Europe and America. The United States, having announced a “pivot” to Asia, needs to “re-pivot” to Europe, he said, and European countries that have cut back on defense spending need to reverse the trends.
“The idea until recently was that there were no more threats in Europe and no need for a U.S. presence in Europe any more,” Siemoniak said, speaking through an interpreter. “Events show that what is needed is a re-pivot, and that Europe was safe and secure because America was in Europe.”