US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz greet each other with an elbow bump as they meet in Lazienki Palace in Warsaw on August 15, 2020. Photo: AFP / Janek Skarzynski

It is fair to say that US Secretary Mike Pompeo had a very busy schedule last week, when after visiting Czech Republic, Slovenia and Austria, on Saturday he finally landed in the capital city of Poland, Warsaw.

Interestingly, the culmination of his “anti-China, anti-Russia” European trip coincided with the centennial anniversary of Poland’s victory over Bolshevik forces in the Battle of Warsaw in August 1920 – a significant event in Polish, as well as Western European, history – and the Pentagon’s recent decision to withdraw nearly 12,000 US troops from Germany.

After hard work on the part of the Polish government and the currently ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), Pompeo and Polish Minister of National Defense Andrzej Błaszczak signed the US-Poland Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in the presence of Polish President Andrzej Duda.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s August 3 statement on the completion of the EDCA negotiations says: “The EDCA will enable an increased enduring US rotational presence of about 1,000 personnel, to include the forward elements of the US Army’s V Corps headquarters and a division headquarters, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, and the infrastructure to support an armored brigade combat team and combat aviation brigade. 

“This is in addition to the 4,500 US personnel already on rotation in Poland.”

As the Polish Ministry of National Defense noted on its website, the most important part of the agreement is the creation of the forward headquarters of the V Corps in Poznań in October. The unit will be responsible for commanding the US Armed Forces located on the eastern flank of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and Major-General John Kolasheski, commander of the 1st Infantry Division of the US Army, will lead it.

Furthermore, the agreement also provides a legal framework to increase the number of US troops stationed in Poland to 20,000 in the future, which certainly makes the Kremlin feel uneasy.

During the joint press conference of Pompeo and Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, the former applauded the Polish government for rejecting the Nord Stream 2 plans, as well as “joining a growing list of nations on high alert to the Chinese Communist Party’s malign influence.”

Czaputowicz said: “I want to emphasize that while we work to preserve and maintain the military presence of the United States in Europe, we in Poland … are guided by the overriding need to strengthen trans-Atlantic bonds. This is very much in the interest of whole Europe, our Central European region, and the trans-Atlantic region.”

What is also interesting about Pompeo’s visit in Warsaw is that the Polish government’s plenipotentiary for strategic energy infrastructure, Piotr Naimski, signed an agreement on cooperation between Poland and the US on development of civil nuclear technology.

“The agreement will allow Poland to benefit from the experience of the United States, both the government sector and American enterprises, in the development of the Polish nuclear energy program,” we read on the Polish prime minister’s website.

Although the recent developments in Poland are being portrayed in very bright colors – where security and economic benefits in the form of investments in construction facilities, new jobs or spending in the local market by American soldiers play key roles – no one seems to be noticing that the US and the populist PiS government are playing with Poland’s future. They risk putting Warsaw not only on a collision course with its two most powerful neighbors, but highly likely also the second-biggest economy in the world in the future.

As is already clear, US President Donald Trump began a long process of reshaping the strategic theater of Europe by acknowledging the historic contribution of Poland to Western security by increasingly empowering this highly ambitious Central European country, the most vocal rival of Germany and Russia in Europe – something that is in line with the new US strategic objectives in this part of the world – while looking at bigger fish to fry in the East Asian region.

“There is a broader belief, also cross-party, that Russia is a more urgent, but short-lived, crisis challenge. We have to deal with it now because it is an unpredictable, revisionist power in Europe,” said John R Deni of the US Army War College (USAWC) in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in an interview with the Polish weekly Polityka.

“China is a long-term challenge that will rise above the Russian threat in the next decade or so, especially in the light of the expected collapse of Russia in many areas.”

Poland, like other countries hosting US troops, will provide free accommodation, meals, and annually determined amounts of fuel, as well as selected elements of support in the storage of equipment and weapons, and service of the infrastructure used. The estimated cost of these activities will be around 500 million zloty (US$135 million) per year.

With the celebratory mood oozing from the Polish public television and radio, I keep asking myself: With friends like the US, who needs enemies?

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Adriel Kasonta

Adriel Kasonta is a London-based foreign affairs analyst and commentator. He is the founder of AK Consultancy and editorial board member at the peer-reviewed Central European Journal of International and Security Studies (CEJISS) in Prague. Kasonta is a former chairman of the International Affairs Committee at Bow Group, the oldest conservative think tank in the UK.