The US and Germany have unequivocally said that Nato will not build new bases in Poland, citing tactical and political reasons. By ANDREW RETTMAN / EU Observer
“Nato’s not talking about establishing bases ... we support an enhanced presence, but we can do it without bases, bases, bases,” James Townsend, a senior Pentagon official, said in Bratislava on Friday (15 April).
His comment came at the Globsec conference in the Slovak capital after Poland’s foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, said he wanted “presence, presence, presence and once again presence” of Nato troops to act as a “symbol of readiness to defend the eastern flank.”
Speaking also at Globsec earlier on Friday, German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen said Nato deterrence of Russia “is not a question of permanent bases, it’s a question of smart movement.”
She said that Nato’s new rapid reaction force is enough to ensure that “Russia should not even think about trying” to destabilise Poland or one of the Baltic states.
The Polish appeal comes ahead of a Nato summit in Warsaw in July.
Nato defence ministers in February already decided in favour of “continuous rotational” presence instead of new bases.
But Waszczykowski in Bratislava asked for more.
“We expect decisions that change the security status of this region. Although we belong to the same institution [Nato] there are different statuses - a better one in the west and a different one on the so-called eastern flank. There are no troops deployed here permanently, no military facilities owned by Nato,” he said.
“We expect the Nato summit to change the situation.”
The Nato rapid reaction force is to include about 4,000 US troops that will “rotate” in and out of the Baltic region - deploy in different areas in temporary facilities for a few months at a time.
It will include warehouses full of US tanks near Russia’s borders that can be quickly deployed.
The Warsaw summit will also discuss giving Nato commanders the flexibility to react to hostile acts without first holding political talks in Brussels, Townsend said.
It will send the message that Nato is ready to use its nuclear deterrent if need be in reaction to Russia’s nuclear sabre-rattling, he added.
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