The North Atlantic alliance has announced it will pay the costs of constructing a new US military equipment depot in western Poland, one of five armories across Europe where equipment is stowed in case of a crisis.
It’s not the permanent “Fort Trump” US military base that Warsaw has tried to squeeze out of Washington, but it’s a start: construction will begin this summer on an armory in Powidz, a “pre-positioned” hardware stash for US forces that’ll set the North Atlantic Treaty Organization back $260 million, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.
The money comes from NATO’s Security Investment Program (NSIP), a fund into which pay all 29 member states, including the US, that’s used to bankroll infrastructure projects needed to keep the military bloc functioning.
US Forces Europe has been seeking approval for the 38-hectare site, immediately adjacent to the Polish Air Force’s Powidz air base, which also serves as a hub for US forces operating in the country, since 2017, Sputnik reported at the time.
“It’s going to be capable of hosting an [armored brigade combat team’s] worth of equipment, but the space configuration will allow us or NATO units to store a variety of different types of equipment there,” US Army Col. John Baker, lead engineer at US Army Europe, said in an April 2017 press conference.
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Stars and Stripes, a US Defense Department publication that’s editorially independent of the agency, minced no words in stating the armory’s purpose was “to ensure that forces can more quickly assemble in the event of a conflict or crisis with Russia.”
“NATO heads of state and governments have acknowledged that the North Atlantic Alliance is at a defining moment for the security of our nations and populations and that the Alliance was ready to respond swiftly and firmly to the new security challenges,” says the DoD’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget request, released earlier this month. “Russia’s aggressive actions have fundamentally challenged our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace.”
Powidz is about 160 miles from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad Oblast, a province separated from the rest of Russia by the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the formation of the Baltic republics and Belarus into independent states in 1990 to 1991.
However, Powidz is 4,343 miles from the Pentagon.
Defense News noted that US President Donald Trump’s pet domestic project, the border wall with Mexico, was sapping some of the funding for infrastructure investments at the Powidz site that would have been covered by the US itself, such as a $21 million bulk fuel storage facility and a $14 million “rail extension and railhead” project.
Warsaw has been pressing for a permanent US base for years: its most recent attempt was floated in September 2018, when Polish President Andrzej Duda, who hails from the right-wing Law and Justice Party, offered to foot the $2 billion bill for a base that would be called “Fort Trump.”
However, earlier this month, a spokesman for Duda’s office said, “The point is to increase the US military presence in Poland and amount of military equipment,” not necessarily to specifically have another military base. There are already about 5,000 US troops stationed in the country on rotating deployments as part of NATO operations.
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