In his opinion article “Don’t put US bases in Poland,” General Ben Hodges argues against establishing a permanent U.S. military presence in Poland. But in claiming the move is a bad idea because it would “feed Russian fears,” he glosses over the fact that Moscow — as a number of politicians, diplomats and military officials will readily admit in private conversations — has nothing to fear. It is Russia’s smaller neighbors that are afraid.
Russia is aggressive for one reason and one reason only: It believes that by bullying the West it can one day win back its former spheres of influence. The only country Russia does not dare to bully is the U.S.
And that is exactly why Poland wants a U.S. base, rather than NATO base, on its territory — although obviously doing so behind NATO’s back isn’t a good idea. But this happened for a reason. As Hodges writes, building a permanent U.S. military base in Poland would “strain the cohesion” of the alliance. In other words, some European NATO allies seem to prefer appeasing Russia rather than standing up to it.
To be sure, the rotational deployment of NATO forces on the alliance’s eastern flank did strengthen Poland and the Baltic nations’ defenses. But these forces are no match for the Russian military. The reason to change the deployment from a rotational to permanent basis is to lower the risk of confrontation to zero. Poland is aware of the difficulties and costs involved, but it is ready to spend up to $2 billion to make it possible.
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Center of Strategic Analysis, chairman