"Fort Trump" or bust?

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Peace, Security & Defence
"Fort Trump" or bust?


Poland is seeking a permanent American military base on its soil at the expense of cooperation with European allies, according to Paul Taylor, Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe and author of the new Friends of Europe report ‘”Fort Trump” or Bust? Poland and the future of European defence’ that emphasised the risks of such a strategy. However, Polish speakers at the report’s launch said their country’s geographical exposure to Russia and history of abandonment by European allies made it uniquely vulnerable. Hence, it has needed to place special importance on its relations with the US.

The shift comes at a time when Poland is more prosperous, stable and safe than ever before. Its memberships of NATO and the European Union have helped maintain peace with neighbours and generate high rates of economic growth, investment and employment. Yet Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party, is haunted by feelings of national insecurity and historical grievance, said Taylor. These have led Kaczyński to pursue bilateral defence ties with the US rather than strengthening collective activities with European partners and NATO allies.

“Poland has embarked on quite a sharp change of direction in its national security policies,” said Taylor, noting that the pivot to Washington coincided with a deterioration of Warsaw’s relations with the EU over the rule of law, and with the main west European powers, Germany and France.

“Poland is pursuing a risky strategy and setting itself up for disappointment. There may be short term political benefits before it sinks in that ‘Fort Trump’ is not going to happen.” President Donald Trump was not pulling US forces back from Syria and Afghanistan in order to park them in a base in eastern Poland waiting for the Russians to come, he said. Washington’s main security concern was China, not Europe.

One reason for preferring the US is its military might and Europeans’ relative lack of defence activity, noted Anna Maria Anders, Polish Secretary of State and Senator. “The European Union, instead of doing something about common defence, spends a lot of time talking about it,” she said. “Poland will always be sceptical about Europe because of 1939 – when France and Great Britain did not come to its aid.”

For some Poles, western Europeans don’t understand the traumas that their country has been through – first during the Second World War and then under the Soviet Union’s domination of Eastern Europe. “Western Europe knows very little of Poland,” said Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a Member of the European Parliament and former Polish Minister for European Affairs. “We feel in touch with history more than you do after 60 or 70 years of happiness. On the US, it is not a risky strategy. It is the only strategy.”

Donald Trump appears less committed to NATO than previous US presidents. Though he is unlikely to pull the US out of the alliance, Poland would still benefit from wider cooperation with other NATO allies and the rest of the EU, said Jamie Shea, a Trustee of Friends of Europe and former Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at NATO. “Poland has an interest in getting involved in European defence projects,” he said – “not just in the Mediterranean but to fill the gaps in NATO defence.”

"Fort Trump" or bust? Poland and the future of European defence.

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Together with the Casimir Pulaski Foundation, Friends of Europe’s study on Poland and the future of European defence will be launched in Warsaw on Monday, 4 February.

Authored by Paul Taylor, Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe, POLITICO columnist and for many years Reuters EU Affairs editor, it examines Poland’s strategic position, its defence relationships and diplomatic alliances, the role and current state of the armed forces, and the place of its defence industries. It will offer recommendations for how to optimise Poland’s defence policy to best assure its own long-term security interests and those of Europe.

The study complements three similar studies on France, Germany and the United Kingdom’s roles in European security and defence.


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Event summary
“Fort Trump of Bust?” – Poland and the future of European defence
Crunch time – France and the future of European defence
Jumping over its shadow – Germany and the future of European defence
Safer together – The United Kingdom and the future of European defence



Presentation of the report "Fort Trump" or Bust? - Poland and the future of European Defense Expand Presentation of the report "Fort Trump" or Bust? - Poland and the future of European Defense

Paul Taylor, Senior Fellow, Friends of Europe


Poland towards new European wave in defence sphere


For more than two years the European Commission and a group of most influential Member States have been pushing the development of new initiatives in area of defence. A number events as Brexit referendum, the aggressive actions of the Russian Federation towards neighbours and Western countries, the election of Donald Trump amplified the tendency towards building some sort of a European defence union. However, not all the EU member states seem to be willing to go toward such kind of union prioritising NATO and bilateral relations with the US. For many countries the position of Poland seems to one of the biggest question marks as far as common European defence is concerned. So, what is Poland approach toward new European wave in defence sphere?


Paul Taylor, Senior Fellow, Friends of Europe
Marek Prawda, Marek Prawda, Head of European Commission Representation in Poland (TBC)
Marcin Terlikowski, Head of International Security Program (TBC)
Piotr Włodarski, Director of Department of Strategic Analyses, National Security Bureau (TBC)


Moderator: Tomasz Smura, Director of Research Office at Casimir Pulaski Foundation



Photo of Paul Taylor
Paul Taylor

Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence, Friends of Europe; author or “After the Ice”, “Crossing the Wilderness”, and “Murky Waters”

Show more information on Paul Taylor
Paul Taylor is a Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe and the author of Friends of Europe’s European Defence Cooperation report series. A Paris-based journalist, he also writes the “Europe at Large” column for Politico. He previously spent four decades working for Reuters as a foreign correspondent in Paris, Tehran, Bonn and Brussels, as bureau chief in Israel/Palestine, Berlin and Brussels, as chief correspondent in France, as diplomatic editor in London, and finally as European affairs editor. His assignments have included covering the Iranian revolution, the Cold War Euromissile crisis, the 1991 Gulf War, German reunification, the Maastricht summit, France in the 1990s, EU enlargement, the Eurozone crisis and the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt.


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