by Anastazja Kołodziej
How does a U.S. storage facility in Poland help Polish security and defense?
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) confirmed on March 23 that it plans to fund a storage facility for U.S. military equipment in Poland.
The facility will be located in Powidz, a village around 120 miles west of Warsaw. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Wall Street Journal that work on the facility will begin this summer. The project is expected to take two years to complete.
Powidz is a strategic location for the facility, because it is close to the center of Poland, which would allow for quick transport of equipment, but it is not so close to Russia that the Kremlin may feel threatened by it.
“I talk about Poland as the center of gravity,” declared the recently retired NATO Commander of Ground Forces in Europe, now holder and first incumbent of the Pershing Chair at the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington, DC, Lieutenant General Ben Hodges. The General elaborated on the central and key role of Poland in his speech at Powidz, in 2017, to Polish Army and NATO officials. This speech was delivered by General Hodges before NATO took the decision to set up the storage facility in Powidz. “Well, this is the center of the center of gravity. This is it. This is the hub for all of northern Europe, the Baltics.”, said the General of the plan to build the NATO base at Powidz.
The decision to place the facility in Poland is explained by anxiety about the increasing Russian threat in the region, especially since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Crimea, which is a region of Ukraine, was seized by Russia in a move that sparked a war that has displaced close to 2 million people.
Since the illegal Russian annexation of Crimea, NATO has increased troop presence in Poland and the Baltic states to deter Kremlin aggression. Nearly 5,000 troops are already stationed in Poland on a permanent rotational basis. According to a post in Emerging Europe by Nicholas Richardson, an English lawyer and the vice-chairman of the British-Polish Chamber of Commerce, NATO has been working to revamp its command structure and to improve the speed with which it can send troops and equipment throughout Europe. The new facility in Poland is consistent with NATO’s practice of pre-positioning equipment in locations specifically chosen to make it easier to transport defense materiel.
The storage facility will help “underpin the increased U.S. presence in Poland,” Stoltenberg told the Wall Street Journal.
The $260 million facility will store defense equipment including: armored vehicles, ammunition and enough weapons to arm a full brigade, according to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.
The money for the facility comes from the NATO Security Investment Program (NSIP). All 29 member countries proportionately contribute to the fund, based on “a key tied to their gross domestic product,” according to Defense News. This explains why U.S. usually pays 20 to 25 percent of a NATO project.
Poland also has been asking the U.S. to establish a permanent military base within the nation’s borders as a response to Kremlin revanchism. No decision has been taken regarding a permanent NATO base with American armed forces. In early March, the U.S. did propose a permanent base in Poland, and Polish officials offered to contribute $2 billion to realize this project. Defense News reported that U.S. Defence Department sources warned that the storage site should not be misconstrued as a sign that the U.S. is considering a “permanent troop footprint” in Poland. This storage site is simply one of five sites across Europe that can be used to pre-position equipment.
Stoltenberg also said that NATO will complete 250 other infrastructure projects in Europe by 2021, which would increase the capacity of airports, harbors, railways and roads, according to Emerging Europe.
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