Alan Lis: The case of ‘Fort Trump’

Since the collapse of communism, the United States has been widely recognized as the main ally of Poland, and the core guarantor of Polish sovereignty and security. For many years now, Polish authorities (nevermind of their political and ideological identification) have tried to secure the permanent presence of the US Army on the Polish soil. Over time, this issue has become also an element of a domestic political game. The current government formed by Law and Justice party (PiS) and its smaller allied parties, has been trying to get the US to establish a permanent US Army base in Poland. President Andrzej Duda, while visiting the White House in September 2018, suggested establishing such base, which would be named after the US president – Fort Trump. 

For many average Poles, the main external threat to the country comes from Poland’s powerful neighbour, Russia. Society’s views on that issue are reflected on Polish parliamentarians, vast majority of whom, if asked, would openly claim that Russia poses the greatest danger to Poland’s sovereignty. Such views, which strongly inform Polish mentality, have inevitably been inherited from the few decades of the oppressive communist rule. Since it collapsed, Poland has made a turn to the West, and became a member of both EU and NATO, which, along with the alliance with the US, constitute the ‘security umbrella of Poland’. Through the membership in the EU, Poland is politically and economically bound with almost thirty other European states, whereas NATO offers more of a military protection, especially since the outcomes of the 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw were introduced and multinational battalion battle group was deployed in Orzysz, north-eastern Poland.

However, if, as already mentioned, NATO already provides security provisions, then why ‘Fort Trump’ is important for Poland? Mainly because it is widely believed that an additional form of protection from Russia and its expansionist policies would not be harmful. Despite Poland is a member of both, the EU and NATO, none in Poland would see a permanent US Army base as exaggeration, especially considering what has been going on in Eastern Ukraine since 2014. Additionally, the permanent presence of the US Army would undoubtedly strengthen Poland’s position in the region- by many means, Polish authorities have been trying to portray their country as the leader of the Central and Eastern European region over years- and would highlight the close relations between Warsaw and Washington. 

Before that happens, funding for this project must be approved, and the idea itself needs to find the support of the majority of American lawmakers. However, there are strong voices in the US towards enhancing its military presence in Eastern Europe, considering deterioration in bilateral relations with Russia. The Atlantic Council, think tank based in Washington, issued a report in December 2018 arguing for just that, and pointing at Russia’s military build-up in the Kaliningrad Region (the one Poland shares border with) and hybrid warfare that Moscow has engaged in.

Understandably, Russia is not likely to favour the idea of a permanent US Army base in Poland. It is very probable that ‘Fort Trump’ would fuel Moscow’s argumentation that Western states and organizations, by deploying their forces so close to Russia’s borders, ultimately not only undermine its security in theory but actually pose a direct threat to Russia and its security and interests in a closeness of its traditional sphere of influence. Whether establishing ‘Fort Trump’ would be a direct reason for a more serious escalation between Washington and Moscow remains to be seen once the base is officially set up. What is going to be a likely outcome is deterioration of bilateral relations between Warsaw and Moscow, as well as further Russian military build-up in Kaliningrad, and perhaps, Belarus. However,  the bilateral relations between Warsaw and Moscow will, with a high dose of probability, experience deterioration. 

Setting up the permanent base is, however, not only in the interest of Poland but also the US and NATO. It would vitally increase the security of the Eastern European NATO members against the aggressive actions carried out by Russia- be it by using its regular units or ‘little green men’. It would also prove President Trump’s support for NATO and its multinational forces deployed in Poland- notably, majority of whom are American- after showing a rather dismissive attitude towards NATO for a prolonged period of time. As President Andrzej Duda is expected to visit the White House on 12th of June, the eventual decision should be made public exactly then.

Alan Lis: U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria

The decision to withdraw the US troops fighting ISIS, known also as ISIL and IS, in Syria is one of the most controversial ones made by President Donal Trump. This announcement came as shocking news, as the ISIS fighters, have not been entirely defeated yet. Although it is true that the overwhelming majority of the IS units have been crashed by either side taking part in the military struggle in Syria-be it the Americans, Russians, Iran-backed Hezbollah, or the forces loyal to Syria’s president, Bashar al Assad- there are still some units of ISIL fighters defending what is left of their Caliphate.

The decision of Mr. Trump met with an extraordinary astonishment of many, including some of his advisors, and criticisms of even more. James Mattis, the, now former, Secretary of Defense resigned from his post, largely motivating his resignation with this very decision of Mr.Trump, expressing his opposition towards bringing American troops back home in a letter to the president, and suggesting Mr Trump that he deserves a secretary of state whose views are to a larger extent similar with his. Clearly, losing a Secretary of Defense of such military experience- Mattis is a four-star retired general- has been a profound loss for the Trump administration. More recently, Pentagon admitted that there is a chance of ISIS resurging in the months to come. In addition to that, General Votel, who has been leading the fight against the IS officially disagreed with Mr. Trump’s decision pointing at two things: that ISIL has not yet been defeated, and that US-backed forces in Syria are not able to effectively counter its threat on their own. 

Trump’s decision of withdrawing troops from Syria strikes as similar to Obama’s military withdrawal from Iraq. There is one fact, however, that is often looked over- Mr. Obama withdrew the US troops because he did not have much choice- the Iraqi government did not agree to let them stay longer. Indeed, in 2011, the Obama administration failed to negotiate the stay of, at least some part of, the American forces in Iraq, what resulted in bringing American troops home. In effect of such, President Obama fulfilled his election-campaign promise, the US budget was relieved to an extent, and the Iraqi authorities were pleased to clear their country out of the US military- both countries, one may assume, should have been satisfied. However, in the result of American soldiers going back home, Iraqi society lost its shield protecting from Maliki and his sectarian rule. Iraqis became vulnerable to Maliki’s violent and oppressive government, which only strengthened peoples’ frustration and mobilised many young and desperate men to seek protection for them and their families in extremist jihadi groups. As one of such was ISIS, it could be argued that the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 was a factor that eventually contributed, to an extent, to the rise of this very organization. Now, one may only wonder what will happen in Syria once the US troops will leave. 

To be fair, there has already been a taster of what to expect. Almost a month after Trump announced his decision, on the 16th of January, four Americans and at least 10 other people died in the explosion, responsibility for which was claimed by ISIS. That attack suggested, as argued by General Votel, that Syria is not ready for the US forces to be withdrawn. Violence does continue and certainly will do so.

The US forces shall remain present in Syria until the military capabilities of ISIS are destroyed completely and the internal situation of Syria becomes more stable. Although it is fairly impossible to eliminate every single terrorist affiliated with ISIS, the international effort, led by the US, must be continued until virtually all networks are destroyed and every scrap of a territory is recaptured, so that ISIS does not hold any stronghold. Otherwise, there is a great risk that either the resurgence of ISIS or creation of the ISIS’s successor, would take place sooner rather than later.


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