The announcement expected today, coming days after the US confirmed it was sending the MQ-9 Reaper drones to neighbouring Estonia for the first time, is a stark illustration of the tense nature of US-Russian relations – as well as the increasingly close relationship between Washington and Warsaw. Speaking yesterday, a US Government official told reporters the finishing touches were being made to a defence agreement announced by US President Trump and Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda, currently visiting Mr Trump in Washington, last year.
In accordance with the deal, the US Air Force will begin rotating an MQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance drone squadron into Poland, as well as establishing an aerial port there.
The RAF, which also has a squadron based at RAF Waddington, describes the MQ-9 Reaper as “a remotely piloted medium-altitude, long endurance (MALE) aircraft designed for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR), and attack missions.
It added: “The aircraft’s persistence and array of surveillance sensors are an essential complement to the RAF’s crewed platforms.”
An MQ-9 Reaper squadron is being deployed in Poland
Andrzej Duda and Donald Trump at the Whitehouse
In addition, a location for a US armoured brigade combat team has been agreed, while the two countries are discussing additional support infrastructure plus a combat aviation brigade.
US officials did not mention plans for naming a military base in honour of the US President, despite Mr Duda having referred to what he called Fort Trump in the past.
However, a second official praised Poland for meeting NATO guidelines by spending two percent of GDP on defence, saying the decision showed Poland was “taking its responsibility as a member of the NATO alliance” seriously.
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The MQ-9 Reaper is a hunter-killer drone
Poland has just been a model defense partner
He added: “Poland has just been a model defense partner.”
Officials refused to speculate on whether Mr Trump was planning to move any of the 9,500 US troops recently pulled out of Germany to Poland.
Speaking earlier this month, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said: “I deeply hope that as a result of the many talks that we had part of the troops based today in Germany which are being removed by the United States will indeed come to Poland.
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Andrzej Duda, pictured with Donald Trump, is seeking re-election as Poland’s President
Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morewiecki
“The decision is now on the US side.”
Mr Putin stoked tensions with Poland at the weekend in an article published in US journal The National Interest to mark the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.
In it, he accused Polish leaders of fleeing the country as the Germany army advanced in September 1939.
Poland was part of the Eastern bloc – but is now closely allied with the US
Citing documents documents brought out of the Russian archives at his request, Mr Putin claimed: “Despite the fierce, heroic resistance of the Polish army, on September 8, 1939 – only a week after the war broke out – the German troops were on the approaches to Warsaw.
“By September 17, the military and political leaders of Poland had fled to Romania, betraying its people, who continued to fight against the invaders.”
Poland was part of the Eastern bloc, and closely allied with Russia, prior to the collapse of the USSR in 1991.
Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin
By contrast, it is now one of the most pro-US countries in Europe, and Mr Duda is hoping his trip to meet Mr Trump will boost his popularity going into Sunday’s Presidential election as he seeks a second term in office.
A statement issued by the Whitehouse in advance of the visit said: “As close partners and NATO allies, the United States and Poland continue to expand our cooperation across a wide range of issues.
“President Trump and President Duda will discuss further advancing our cooperation on defense, as well as trade, energy, and telecommunications security.”