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Trump and Duda close to deal on boosting US forces in Poland

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Warsaw and Washington are close to a deal on an increased US military presence in Poland, which could be announced when Polish president Andrzej Duda visits his US counterpart Donald Trump next month, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The deal, the result of months of intensive negotiations between the two allies, would increase the 4,500-strong US presence in Poland — the linchpin of Nato’s eastern flank — by at least 1,000, they said.

The increased presence would go hand in hand with an upgrade in the capabilities of the US forces stationed in Poland, including a special forces component as well as the establishment of a state of the art joint training facility.

Alarmed by Russia’s renewed assertiveness, Polish officials last year launched a concerted effort to persuade the US to establish a permanent military presence in their country. Mr Duda suggested that a base could be called “Fort Trump” and Poland offered to provide up to $2bn towards funding it.

The deal between the two countries does not envisage a single Fort Trump-like facility, with the US reinforcements instead expected to be split between multiple bases. But officials speak of an “enduring” US presence in the central European nation.

The two sides are still haggling over details of the funding. The deal could be signed on June 12 when Mr Duda visits the US, although officials cautioned that it could also slip to September if final details took longer to iron out.

The two countries’ Nato allies are to be briefed on the plans before a final agreement is signed.

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A deal on an increased US presence in Poland would be a boost for Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, which has often clashed with Brussels over the past three years and has made closer ties with the US one of its strategic priorities.

It would also boost Mr Trump, who has made it clear he expects other Nato countries to play a bigger role in the burden-sharing associated with maintaining the alliance’s capabilities and has frequently criticised countries such as Germany for doing too little. Poland is one of just five Nato states that meet the bloc’s defence spending targets.

As well as the bigger US military presence, the two sides are expected to discuss a range of other security topics, including a recent Polish request for a quotation on the purchase of F-35A fighter jets, according to a person familiar with the plans. Polish officials are set to visit a US air base as part of the trip.

Also on the agenda is greater energy co-operation. Poland’s state-controlled energy group PGNiG has struck a number of deals with US liquefied natural gas groups in recent months, and as part of his trip, Mr Duda will visit an LNG facility in Louisiana.

Delegates will also cover nuclear co-operation. Warsaw is considering whether or not to build the country’s first nuclear power plant. US officials, including Rick Perry, energy secretary, have been lobbying on behalf of US group Westinghouse, according to people briefed on the discussions.

They will also discuss Poland’s desire for a visa waiver for citizens visiting the US.

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Via Financial Times

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