Monday, 25 January 2016

Britain To Station Troops in Poland. At What Price?

The Polish Minister of Defence, Antoni Macierewicz, has announced that Britain will station 1,000 troops permanently on Polish soil from 2017. On Thursday Macierewicz said

'One of the decisions, which resulted from yesterday's talks (is) a permanent presence of the British forces on Polish territory, that is 1,000 soldiers, who will permanently station on Polish territory from next year. They will switch around, it will be a rotational, but permanent presence of 1,000 soldiers.'

This goes against previous statements made by the Ministry of Defence in London, that the troops would be sent for temporary exercises only. If true it would mean that NATO troops would have a permanent base in Poland, thus potentially violating the 1997 agreement between NATO and Russia. 

As well as further adding to the volatility in the region, it raises the question at what price the British government has agreed to station troops in Poland. After all, earlier this month the Polish Foreign Minister said in an interview for Reuters that Warsaw might be prepared to soften its position on David Cameron's proposal to curb in-work benefits for EU migrants if ' Britain could support our expectations related to an allied military presence on Polish territory.'

The Deputy Foreign Ministers of Poland and Russia met in Moscow last week for talks. No breakthrough was reported on any of the issues dividing the countries, such as the possible return of the Smoleńsk plane wreckage from Russia. It has been common practice recently to speculate that the current right-wing administration in Warsaw would like to move Poland closer politically to Russia and Putin. However, at least in the arena of foreign policy, this seems extremely unlikely, with the stationing of permanent NATO troops in Poland certain to worsen relations between the two countries even further.  

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