The Trump administration has approved the $6.5bn sale of 32 F-35 fighter jets to Poland, in the latest sign of the deepening security ties between Washington and Warsaw.
Alarmed by Russia’s increasingly assertive behaviour, Poland is in the process of overhauling its armed forces. In May, Warsaw asked Washington to purchase the F-35s, single-engine stealth fighters, which it plans as a replacement for its ageing Soviet-era fleet of Su-22s and MiG-29s.
The US state department said on Wednesday that it had formally notified Congress of the proposed sale of the 32 Lockheed F-35 fighter jets, as well as 33 Pratt & Whitney F135 engines.
While US lawmakers now have just over a fortnight to formally object to the arms sale, none have signalled that they will.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a Nato ally, which is an important force for political stability and economic progress in Europe,” the state department said in a statement.
“This proposed sale of F-35s will provide Poland with a credible defence capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with US forces.”
Poland’s defence minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, welcomed the decision and said that the country would wait for the approval by the US Congress and then proceed to negotiate the price. “The most important contract in the history of the Polish armed forces is getting closer and closer,” he wrote on Twitter.
The progress on the F-35 deal caps a flurry of diplomatic exchanges between the US and Poland, which is one of only seven Nato states to meet the alliance’s target of spending 2 per cent of its gross domestic product on defence. It occupies a key position on the bloc’s eastern flank.
Following months of lobbying by Polish officials, Mr Trump welcomed his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda to the White House in June and announced that he would send a further 1,000 US troops to Poland as part of an “enduring” presence aimed at bulking up its deterrent capabilities
The decision to send 1,000 US troops to Poland complements the 4,500 American forces who currently spend time in the eastern European country on a rotating basis. Mr Trump said in June the troops would be redeployed from somewhere else in Europe.
Poland had pushed the US to establish a permanent military presence in the country due to concerns about Russian influence in the region. During an earlier visit to Washington last year, Mr Duda said he would like to “invite more American troops to Poland”. Warsaw has indicated it would provide $2bn to build facilities to house US troops in Poland, and Mr Duda has told Mr Trump: “I hope that we will build Fort Trump in Poland together.”
In addition to the military co-operation, the two countries have struck a series of deals for Poland to buy LNG from US companies, which officials in Warsaw and Washington see as a step towards reducing Russia’s stranglehold over central European energy supplies.
Earlier this month, they also signed an agreement to co-operate on 5G technology, as the US steps up its efforts to combat the influence of Huawei, the Chinese telecoms company.