Poland’s Duda Calls for Permanent NATO Bases

Poland’s new conservative president urges NATO not to treat his country as a buffer zone.

Poland’s new president has called on NATO to place military bases in the country and take a stronger stand against what he described as the “imperialist actions” of its former Soviet master, Russia.

“We do not want to be the buffer zone. We want to be the real eastern flank of the alliance,” Andrzej Duda, who was elected in May, told the Financial Times.

If Poland and other Central European countries constitute the real flank of NATO, then it seems natural to me, a logical conclusion, that bases should be placed in those countries.

Western allies previously shied away from permanently deploying troops in Russia’s former satellite states for fear of aggravating that country’s security concerns. But its invasion of Ukraine last year and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula have made those concerns irrelevant.

In June, the United States said they would permanently deploy artillery and tanks to the Baltics and Eastern Europe where countries have been especially unnerved by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

NATO has also stepped up military exercises in the region, deployed fighter jets to the three Baltic states to defend their airspace and created a high-readiness force of 5,000 soldiers that can respond instantly to threats on the alliance’s frontier.

New command and control units are set up in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania to support NATO operations.

But there are still few fighting troops deployed east of Germany.

Poland, which has the eight largest army in NATO, is moving the bulk of its own armed forces to its eastern border under a three-year modernization plan. It complained last year about “unprecedented” Russian military activity in the Baltic Sea region and said the country seemed to be testing NATO.

Duda — whose Law and Justice party has recently taken a lead over the liberal Civic Platform for parliamentary elections that are due in October — lamented that Poland’s allies have not fully appreciated its westward shift yet.

Unlike the Civic Platform, which has successfully taken advantage of a weakening Franco-German axis in Europe to position Warsaw as an ally of Berlin, Law and Justice is Euroskeptic and more pro-American. If it wins the next election, Poland could adopt a more assertive policy toward Russia, as opposed to the cautious approach of Germany.

Although the president is commander-in-chief of Poland’s armed forces, his office is largely ceremonial. But Duda told the Financial Times he wants to play a bigger role in foreign affairs, describing this as “not a revolution but a correction.”