Trump said he looked forward to signing a “defense cooperation agreement” with Polish President Andrzej Duda, who was the first foreign leader to visit the White House since the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left more than 121,000 people dead in the United States, hit in March.
“They’re going to pay for that … for the sending of additional troops and we’ll probably be moving them from Germany to Poland,” he said.
“We are going to be reducing our forces in Germany” from 52,000 to 25,000 troops, Trump said after an Oval Office meeting with his populist ally Duda.
Duda called it a “very reasonable decision” and said he had asked Trump not to withdraw US troops from Europe “because the security of Europe is very important to me.”
The Polish media said 30 US F-16 fighter jets stationed in Germany could also be moved to the eastern European country as Polish officials have raised the prospect of a more permanent US presence — perhaps in a facility paid for by Warsaw dubbed “Fort Trump.”
Poland has constantly demanded a boost in US military assistance particularly after the Ukraine crisis and the rejoining of Crimean peninsula to Russia in a referendum in 2014.
The meeting with Trump came just four days before Poland’s presidential election, in which Duda seeks a second term.
The timing of the meeting was criticized by Duda’s opponents as an attempt to gain a pre-election windfall.
“President Duda is doing very well in Poland. He’s doing a terrific job.” Trump said following the meeting.
Some US officials condemned Trump’s decision to host the Polish president days before the country’s presidential vote.
US Representative Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat from Ohio who co-chairs the Congressional Poland Caucus said, “As a Polish-American and someone who deeply values the US-Poland relationship, I am troubled by President Trump’s inappropriate efforts to insert himself into Polish domestic politics and boost President Duda’s reelection with a White House visit.”
“Unfortunately, President Trump’s invitation is not surprising given his favorability toward strongmen and those who undermine democratic institutions,” Kaptur said.
Molly Montgomery of the Brookings think tank in Washington said, “No US president should meet a foreign leader — friend or foe — mere days before she or he stands for election. To do so undermines Poland’s democratic processes and our own values.”
Trump also repeated his frequent accusation that Germany is not paying its fair share of NATO’s defense budget.
Germany warns against Trump’s decision
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer warned that Trump administration’s planned withdrawal of American troops from her country must not send Russia the signal “that the US is less interested in Europe.”
“Russia needs to understand very clearly that we in Europe and in NATO are strong — that we follow through with what we do,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said.
She said US troops currently stationed in Germany send “a very strong signal from Europe to Russia.”
NATO promised Russia in the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act not to set up permanent bases in the former eastern bloc.
Kramp-Karrenbauer said if US troops are moved to Poland, NATO members — with the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, designed to guide relations between the alliance and Moscow, in mind — must “stand visibly united and… stick to this treaty that we’ve agreed to.
The German defense minister also said that the goal for NATO members to spend at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, which Trump has been urging the bloc’s European members to meet, might not be the right objective to set due to severe budgetary constraints in COVID-19 crisis.