President Donald Trump and his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda were to announce higher US troop levels in Poland on Wednesday, with the main question being whether Washington will defy Russian objections to establish an American base in the NATO country.
A senior Trump administration official said the White House meeting would see the two leaders make “a significant announcement.”
Whether Trump will risk irritating Moscow with a base or take the simpler option of adding more troops to the current non-permanent force was unclear.
Located deep in what used to be Soviet-dominated eastern Europe, Poland is a member of NATO but has long wanted deeper US commitment.
Spooked by resurgent Russia’s seizing control of territory in Georgia and Ukraine over the last decade, Duda has tried to charm the US president, even touting the idea of Poland building a “Fort Trump” to house thousands of US soldiers.
Krzysztof Szczerski, an adviser to the Polish president, said the general concept of a “Fort Trump” was on the agenda Wednesday and that the US presence “will increase both in quality as well as quantity.”
While US troops already deploy to Poland as part of a rotating NATO presence, a permanent force would thrust American military power one step closer to Russia’s borders.
Likely responses would include the Kremlin increasing military assets in the Russian territory of Kaliningrad, which borders Poland, and possibly also in Belarus, a close ally of Moscow that has resisted hosting a full-scale Russian base on its territory.
– $2 billion sweetener –
Poland has been rebuffed before.
In the early 2000s, there were intense talks on deployment of a US anti-missile defense system in Poland, ostensibly to guard against Iranian attacks on Europe but seen by Russia as a direct threat.
With the Kremlin vowing to respond with new nuclear missile deployments, president Barack Obama abandoned the project. In 2018, however, Poland signed a $4.75 billion contract to purchase the US Patriot anti-missile systems — a deal seen as a major boost for attempts to modernize Polish forces.
Duda’s current attempts to woo Trump include promising $2 billion for construction costs of the base he wants, not to mention the only half-joking idea of naming the proposed facility after the publicity-loving president.
But the Pentagon has been less enthusiastic about a base. Both US Army Secretary Mark Esper and then-defense secretary Jim Mattis expressed concerns in September about having adequate space to train soldiers.
What amounts to a diplomatic-military chess game in the long-contested lands between Russia and western Europe is further complicated by Trump’s erratic foreign policy.
The US president has blown hot and cold on Putin and has often spoken disparagingly about his NATO allies.
However, there is strong support in Washington for a tough approach to the Kremlin following its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Black Sea Crimea region, open support for Ukrainian and Georgian separatist regions, and frequent incursions into NATO airspace.
In another twist, Trump has been dogged throughout his first term by accusations of improper links to Moscow, ranging from secretive business dealings to benefiting from a Russian influence operation during the 2016 election.
UK travel giant Thomas Cook set to collapse: report
Thomas Cook's 178-year existence was reported to be coming to an end on Monday after the British travel firm struggled to find private investment to keep it afloat, potentially affecting thousands of holidaymakers.
The operator has said it needs £200 million ($250 million) or else it will face administration, which could affect 600,000 holidaymakers and require Britain's largest peacetime repatriation.
A source close to the negotiations told AFP that the company had failed to find the cash from private investors and would collapse unless the government intervened.
But ministers are unlikely to step in due to worries about the pioneering operator's longer-term viability, the Times reported, leaving it on the brink.
‘We are the people’: Watch Billy Porter get a standing ovation for his passionate speech at the Emmys
In a powerful and passionate speech accepting his Emmy, "Pose" actor Billy Porter showered the audience with love and proudly reminded all of their right to belong and be loved.
"Oh, my God. God bless you all! The category is love, y'all, love!" Porter exclaimed.
The epic FX show "Pose" depicts Black and Latinos in the LGBTQ ballroom culture of New York City in the 1980s in the first season and the early 1990s in the second season.
"I am so overwhelmed and so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day," he said. "James Baldwin wrote, 'It took many years of vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.' I have the right. You have the right. We all have the right."
Paris show of King Tutankhamun artifacts set new record with 1.42 million visitors
A blockbuster Tutankhamun show set a new all-time French record Sunday, with 1.42 million visitors flocking to see the exhibition in Paris, the organisers said.
The turnout beat the previous record set by another Tutankhamun show billed as the "exhibition of the century" in 1967, when 1.24 million queued to see "Tutankhamun and His Times" at the Petit Palais.
"Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" -- which has been described as a "once in a generation" show -- will open in London in November.
The last time a show of comparable size about the boy king opened there in 1972 it sparked "Tutmania", with 1.6 million people thronging the British Museum.