Poland Welcomes U.S. Troops

Foreign minister says Poland can help more in foreign operations if it feels ‘more secure’ at home

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski / AP
June 3, 2013

Poland’s foreign minister said Monday that he would welcome the presence of more U.S. troops in his country, which shares a border with Russia and other former Soviet nations that are "less democratic and less safe."

"As far as I’m concerned you can all come to Poland," Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said during a discussion hosted by the Atlantic ahead of his meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry.

The United States currently stations a permanent attachment of just 10 troops in Poland despite the country’s ongoing concerns about security and its turbulent border regions.

Sikorski, who formerly served as Poland’s defense minister, said that his country would be more willing to aid U.S. military missions across the globe if more troops were sent to bolster their home front.

"My deal with you is this: We will help you more on out-of-area operations the more we feel secure at home and that part needs to be done more," Sikorski said during the discussion, which was hosted by the Atlantic’s Steve Clemons.

Poland is willing to aid U.S. military operations "in proportion to how secure we feel at home," Sikorski said, expressing concern about the country’s border with Belarus, which could sell Assad’s forces Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles.

Sikorski, a former scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, also discussed the need for a more militarized European Union and his pessimistic views about the ongoing civil war in Syria.

Asked by Clemons if he would advise Kerry about pushing the Russians to be more cooperative on Syria, Sikorski responded, "It’s probably not going as well as he’d like."

"I’m a pessimist on Syria," Sikorski added. "I think we got lucky in Libya and Syria is much more complicated."

Neither side in the battle "has an incentive to compromise and it will go on until Syria is destroyed and each side is tired."

"I wish I could be more optimistic but I’m not," he said, predicting an extremely high deal toll.

The Europeans still are not convinced that it is wise to fully back rebel fighters in Syria.

"We don’t have consensus on it in Europe," he said. "At the last foreign affairs council [meeting] we lifted sanctions only because we couldn’t agree on" a better policy.

The EU decided last week to relax financial sanctions on opposition groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

However, "the great majority of countries were in favor of extending sanctions on both sides," Sikorski said, expressing concern about direct U.S. intervention.

"If our Western allies get consumed by another war in the Middle East that we can’t afford than something bad will happen in our neighborhood because of distraction in the Middle East," Sikorski said in response to a question from the Washington Free Beacon.

As conflicts in the Middle East continue to spiral out of control, Sikorski said there is a need for the EU to form a permanent military force that is capable of responding.

It has been difficult for countries such a Poland to galvanize support for such a force as most major European countries have cut their defense budgets

"Poland thinks the only way to reconcile [decline defense budgets] is to have more pooling and sharing and more European capabilities," Sikorski said. "We have battle groups and we should use them. It’s only by acting as Europe as a whole that we can have an impact and back up our diplomacy with a force."

Sikorski also discussed an ongoing investigation into the 2010 plane crash that killed the Polish president and most the country’s political and military leaders.

Poland has been unable to reclaim the plane, which crashed in Western Russia.

"Russia is not allowing us to recover the wreckage which is our sovereign property," Sikorski said.

The foreign minister also criticized the U.S. media for outing a military site in Poland that was believed to be used as a secret CIA detention facility, or black site.

"I read leaks in your newspapers, leaks that were very unhelpful," he said. "It’s hard to be helpful in the future when leaks like that appear."

Asked about America’s ongoing presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sikorski recommended the United States pull back its forces.

"The sense that you need to pick your engagements more carefully than in the past is more correct," he continued. "As the Western world, we are a smaller and smaller proportion of global population and inevitably a smaller portion of the global economy."

"We really need to pick our fights," he said. "Maybe should rethink this doctrine of going to war with countries when actually all we want to do is get rid of their leaders."