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NATO plans facility in Poland to store U.S. military equipment

Author : James Marson

It is reported that NATO wants to increase the speed with which it can deploy forces in Europe
13:22, 25 March 2019

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks with Ian Lesser, German Marshall Fund vice president, before discussing the future of the transatlantic alliance during an event hosted in Brussels, March 18, 2019.
US Dept of Defense

BRUSSELS—NATO will plow funds into stationing U.S. military equipment in Poland, lending allied heft to Washington’s strategy for quickly reinforcing Europe with troops in case of a Russian incursion.

The $260 million storage facility will help turn an air base near Powidz, in central Poland, into a hub for U.S. forces in a former Soviet Bloc country that has a land border with Russia. Construction will start this summer and take two years, said Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in an interview. He said the facility will hold armored vehicles, ammunition and weapons for a brigade.

“This shows how closely we are working together with the U.S.,” Mr. Stoltenberg said. “This is to underpin the increased U.S. presence in Poland.”

The U.S. Defense Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

NATO has bolstered its eastern flank in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, covert invasion of eastern Ukraine, and buildup of forces on its European border. The U.S. already leads a battle group in Poland—one of four based in NATO’s east totaling about 5,000 troops—and has an armored brigade headquartered there that rotates through the region.

The Trump administration is considering an offer from the government in Warsaw to provide $2 billion toward a U.S. base there that could be called “Fort Trump.”

The Powidz facility is one of five sites—two in Germany and one each in Belgium and the Netherlands are the others—that will hold the equipment for most of an armored division, said retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, a former commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe. The so-called prepositioning of equipment, a practice also used during the Cold War, would allow the U.S. to reinforce allies quickly with thousands of troops but is less of a drag on funds and manpower than a permanent deployment.

NATO wants to increase the speed with which it can deploy forces in Europe, and allies are implementing a so-called “readiness initiative” to have 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 naval combat vessels ready to use in 30 days. The alliance is also investing in infrastructure to move heavy equipment and troops that was neglected after the end of the Cold War.

NATO will complete some 250 other infrastructure projects across Europe aimed at improving the ability of airports, harbors, railways and roads to transport and receive heavy equipment by 2021, Mr. Stoltenberg said.

The 29-member alliance has been strained in recent years by President Trump’s broadsides against European members over their spending levels and his questioning of the value of U.S. membership. But at the same time, the U.S. has increased its military forces in Europe.

“People talk a lot about U.S. disengagement, but in a practical way, you see how good the cooperation is,” a Polish diplomat said.

The Trump administration has credited Mr. Stoltenberg for pressing allies to increase military expenditures, adding $100 billion from 2016 to the end of next year.

But some are still falling well short of NATO’s defense-spending target of 2% of a country’s gross domestic product, including Germany, Europe’s largest economy. The German government endorsed a draft budget Wednesday that would see military spending increase next year but then decline, meaning Berlin would miss the 1.5% goal it pledged to NATO.

Mr. Stoltenberg noted that Germany had started increasing defense spending and pledged an 80% increase from 2014 to 2024 in a plan submitted to NATO.

“I expect that Germany will do what they have told NATO,” he said.

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