While Duda got a coveted Oval Office visit and joint press conference in the White House Rose Garden, the trip may be viewed as a disappointment because he failed to clinch a final agreement to deploy additional U.S. troops to Polish soil. Washington and Warsaw are still in talks to hash out the final details of a defense cooperation agreement between the two countries, senior U.S. administration officials said Tuesday ahead of the visit.
A Pentagon spokesperson said defense officials are drawing up options to move the 9,500 troops and their families out of Germany, but critics have accused senior leaders of slow-rolling the effort.
Neither Trump nor Duda mentioned plans to name a Polish base “Fort Trump,” which have reportedly stalled amid funding and infrastructure disputes. In his book, “The Room Where it Happened,” former national security adviser John Bolton recalled Trump complaining that he “didn’t remember agreeing to Fort Trump.”
Trump blindsided allies both at home and abroad with the announcement this month that he was looking to reduce the U.S. military presence in Germany, a move seen as an affront to German leaders and beneficial to Russia. The president has faced opposition to the drawdown even among his own party, but has stood firm in his decision, implying the shift is linked to his repeated complaints that Germany is not spending enough money on defense.
The president’s assertion that he would “probably” move troops from Germany to Poland comes days after his national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, wrote in an op-ed that the Pentagon “may” relocate the soldiers elsewhere in Europe but could also redeploy them to the Indo-Pacific or send them back to the U.S.
“Poland is one of the few countries that are fulfilling their obligations,” Trump said on Wednesday, referring to a voluntary agreement that member states of the defense pact spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense.
Trump admonished Germany for its failure to reach that commitment, though the agreement reached in 2014 set 2024 as the goal to meet that threshold.
Roughly 35,000 U.S. troops and their families are permanently stationed in Germany, which is considered a critical staging base for operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Troop levels in Germany are authorized to go as high as 52,000, a number that Trump mistakenly stated as the current number of troops there. The president has said he wants that number to drop to 25,000.
Critics of the move have protested a decrease in the U.S. presence in Europe, in the face of increased Russian aggression and Moscow’s complaints about the size of the U.S. force there.
Asked what Duda thought of the impending withdrawal, the Polish president explained that while he would not presume to tell Trump where to send U.S. troops, he would not deny that he asked Trump not to withdraw American forces from Europe. He noted that 2014, the year that Russia attacked Ukraine and occupied Crimea, was a year of “huge fears” for eastern Europe, and that the presence of NATO and particularly U.S. troops in Poland is a critical security guarantee.
“It shows that if anyone wanted to attack Poland, it won’t be a soft landing,” Duda said. “Because the strongest army in the world is present and they would help us defend our borders.”