The United States is to send 1,000 additional troops to Poland, US president Donald Trump announced on Wednesday as he met with Polish president Andrzej Duda at the White House.
The decision to strengthen US military presence in Poland follows lobbying by the Polish government amid fears about Russian aggression in the region.
Poland, and not the US, will pay for the new military base, Mr Trump said during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, adding that he could send up to 2,000 troops there on a rotational basis. He also suggested that the troops could be deployed to Poland from Germany where the United States has about 50,000 troops stationed. It is not clear if the new Polish base will be called "Fort Trump" as suggested by Mr Duda last September.
Mr Trump marked Mr Duda’s visit with a military flyover, a rare event in Washington DC. Two F-35 fighter jets flew over the White House and central Washington, marking the news that Poland intends to purchase new F-35s from the US.
“It’s a big purchase; it’s a very big order,” said Mr Trump as he signed a joint declaration on defence with Mr Duda.
Mr Trump also said that he intends to visit Poland in September, the second visit of his presidency. The US president delivered a controversial speech in Warsaw in June 2017, one of his first to a European audience after his election as president, in which he defended the values of "family, freedom, country, and God".
Addressing reporters after the bilateral meeting, Mr Trump profusely praised the Polish president for his country’s performance.
“What they’ve done over the last five years is something the world has watched and the world has marvelled over,” he said.
“The United States and Poland are not only bound by a strategic partnership, but deep common values, shared goals and a very strong and abiding friendship.”
Poland has been at loggerheads with the European Union since the election of its conservative government, amid concerns about the former communist country's commitment to rule-of-law and the independence of the judiciary.
At the press conference, Mr Duda noted that a conservative government had been elected and this had to be respected. “This is the nature of democracy,” he said. “When someone wins the election they have the right to implement the programme they announced before the election – not only a right but an obligation.”
Mr Trump also praised Poland's commitment to Nato, noting that it was one of eight countries to meet the target for spending of 2 per cent of GDP on defence. He also used the visit of the Polish president to criticise Germany for its dependence on Russian energy and warn that the US could impose sanctions on companies involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 project, a pipeline which will transport gas from Russia to Germany and which is opposed by Baltic countries and other eastern European states. It was a "tremendous mistake for Germany" to be so dependent on the pipeline, he said.
Poland also agreed to buy more LNG (liquefied natural gas) fuel from US producers, a move that was welcomed by the Trump administration and energy secretary Rick Perry.
Mr Trump also defended his North Korean strategy, a day after he said he had received another "beautiful letter" from Kim Jong-un. "I'm in no rush," he said about a possible nuclear deal with North Korea, noting that the remains of American soldiers had been returned and there had been no nuclear testing. "I think we're doing very well. When I took over as president I tell you there looked like there was going to be war with North Korea," he said. "Right now we have a good relationship, probably better than we've had 25 years, maybe forever."