Pentagon: No US troop buildup in Poland 'at this point'

The US ambassador claimed Washington had pledged to increase its deployment of 4,000 troops in Poland. But shortly afterward, the Pentagon said that "speculation on troop increases or agreements" was unfounded.

The US Defense Department on Wednesday denied that an agreement had been made with the Polish government to bolster troop numbers in the central European country.

Poland has pushed Washington to create a permanent US base in the country and increase its deployment of 4,000 soldiers, which form part of a NATO operation aimed at Russian deterrence. Polish authorities raised the prospect of calling the base "Fort Trump."

US ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher earlier Wednesday claimed that a deal had been made, reportedly telling the London-based newspaper The Financial Times: "It will be significant. It passes the hundred mark, the hundreds mark."

But Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon later said "any speculation on troop increases or agreements at this point is unfounded."

"No agreements have been reached," Pahon said. "We are continuing discussions and will announce results of our talks at the appropriate time."

Read more: Fort Trump: Is a new US military base in Poland a realistic option?

Donald Trump on NATO: Top quotes

Trump on NATO: A war of words

Even before taking office, US President Donald Trump's relationship with NATO has been a tumultuous one, to say the least. He has disparaged the trans-Atlantic alliance, once describing it as "obsolete" and a relic of the Cold War. Here are Trump's most memorable quotes about the military alliance, even if they are at times false.

Donald Trump on NATO: Top quotes

'Days of the Soviet Union'

While on the campaign trail in 2016, Trump made clear that he saw NATO as a relic of the Cold War. "You know, we're dealing with NATO from the days of the Soviet Union, which no longer exists. We need to either transition into terror or we need something else." But his remarks didn't account for how the alliance backed the US well after the collapse of the Soviet Union, especially in Afghanistan.

Donald Trump on NATO: Top quotes

'Germany owes vast sums'

Trump has made defense spending his main talking point on NATO. But he has falsely accused member states of owing money to Washington, saying: "Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO, and the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany." The problem is NATO doesn't work like that. No money is owed to the alliance for defense or otherwise.

Donald Trump on NATO: Top quotes

'Obsolete'

Days before his inauguration, Trump caught NATO members off guard when he claimed the alliance was "obsolete" and threatened to withdraw support. "I said a long time ago that NATO had problems: Number one, it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago." Months later, he retracted his statement, citing changes within the alliance. "Now they fight terrorism," he said.

Donald Trump on NATO: Top quotes

'Doesn't sound very smart'

Trump had tended to lump trade between US allies with how much Washington spends on defense. "We are spending a fortune on military in order to lose $800 billion (in trade losses). That doesn't sound very smart to me," Trump said. The problem is that while NATO members have agreed to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense, the alliance has nothing to do with international trade.

Donald Trump on NATO: Top quotes

'We are the schmucks'

During a 2018 rally in Montana, Trump hit out at European allies, saying: "They want (us) to protect against Russia, and yet they pay billions of dollars to Russia, and we're the schmucks paying for the whole thing." Trump was referring to Russia as Europe's primary source for oil and natural gas, but he created a false dichotomy between energy reliance and NATO's defense spending goal.

Donald Trump on NATO: Top quotes

Montenegro 'may get aggressive and congratulations, you're in World War III"

In an interview with Fox News, Trump was asked why the US should jump the defense of NATO ally Montenegro in the event of an attack. The president said he'd asked himself the same question, appearing undermine the military alliance's collective defense clause. Trump went on to describe Montenegrins as a "very strong" and "very aggressive," and that that aggression risked starting World War III.

'We want US troops'

Senior US officials are expected to discuss the potential troop increase during an official visit to Warsaw for a security conference on Iran and the Middle East, co-hosted by Poland and the US.

US Vice President Mike Pence is in town with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and both are expected to give major speeches on Thursday alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But some have questioned Poland's involvement in the Middle East-oriented conference.

"The main goal for us is not the Middle East. It's not Iran. Polish-Iranian relations are quite marginal," Robert Czulda, Iran expert and professor of politics at Poland's University of Lodz, told DW. "For us, the main reason is to please the US. We want US troops to be deployed in Poland."

Pence is also scheduled to visit the site of Nazi Germany's Auschwitz death camp in occupied Poland. Afterwards, he will be heading to the Munich Security Conference, where world leaders — including German Chancellor Angela Merkel — will discuss the biggest threats to global security.

Read more: Poland's forgotten victims of Nazism

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DW News | 08.02.2019

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ls/msh (AFP, Reuters)