Pence says US military to expand presence in Poland; NATO allies yet to hit spending goals

Polish President Andrzej Duda (R) shakes hand with US Vice President Mike Pence during a meeting in Warsaw on September 2, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

The United States is planning to expand its military presence in Poland, Vice President Mike Pence says, praising the NATO ally for being among the few members of the Western military alliance who are trying to meet Washington’s spending requirements.

Speaking at a joint press news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, Pence said Monday that the two sides were moving forward with plans to deploy 1,000 more American troops in the European country.

“Lots of proposals have been put on the table,” Duda said. “We hope this year we will be able to sign a final agreement concerning the extension of the US presence.”

Pence said the two countries had finalized sites for the joint bases but referred questions about possible timelines to the Pentagon. American troops in Poland currently live and train at a number of Polish bases on a rotating or temporary basis.

“I know that is in the process as we speak,” Pence said of the timeline targets, “and it reflects a part of the United States’ ongoing commitment to this alliance and our relationship to Poland, rotating troops through this country.”

Pence arrived in the Polish capital on Sunday morning to attend the 80th anniversary of World War II along with other world leaders.

He was filling in for President Donald Trump, who called off his scheduled trip to better monitor Hurricane Dorian, the deadly storm that is currently battering the Bahamas and is expected to strike Florida in the coming days.

Pence said Trump was expected to reschedule his trip to Poland this fall.

When Trump does visit, he likely will demand certain NATO allies spend more on defense, a drum he’s been beating since the start of his presidency — and a theme repeated by Pence during his visit to Warsaw.

Pence slams NATO allies for lack of spending

Pence used his speech at the World War II event on Sunday to call on America’s allies in the NATO military alliance to “live up” to their promises to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense by 2024.

On Monday, he expanded on the issue and praised Poland for being one of the only seven countries in the 29-member alliance to meet Trump’s demands.

“I can assure you that when President Trump is next in Poland, two things will happen: He will commend President Duda for his commitment to our common defense and he’ll continue to call out our NATO allies,” he added.

Trump has long complained that the US is paying for much of the alliance’s costs. He told a NATO summit in Brussels last year that Washington will “go its own way” if the allies fail to meet his requirements.

Pence said the US was bearing “the lion’s share” of NATO’s budget.

“It simply does not make sense for the people of the United States to bear the lion’s share of the burden of defending Europe when so many countries in our NATO alliance fail to meet the minimum obligation that every nation in this alliance made to one another,” he added

Trump’s insistence on enforcing the NATO spending goal has alienated Germany.

Earlier this year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government unveiled a three-year budget plan that would fall even lower than an earlier target of 1.5 percent.

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