Trump, Poland's Duda discuss sending some U.S. troops to Poland from Germany
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Polish President Andrzej Duda was the first foreign head of state to visit US President Donald Trump on Wednesday since the coronavirus pandemic led to worldwide closures. The two heads of state and government looked forward to the signing of a defense cooperation agreement.
Duda's visit seemed to be aimed at boosting his re-election campaign - Poland's nationwide presidential election is taking place on Sunday. The nationalist Polish leader has become one of Trump's preferred foreign partners. The two met at least five times individually.
A defense agreement would send more US troops to Poland, strengthen defense cooperation between the two NATO allies, and act as a further counterweight to Russian aggression.
"I think it's a strong message to Russia," Trump said at a press conference with Duda in the White House rose garden, where he criticized other European countries for buying Russian energy.
The two leaders spoke after a meeting in the Oval Office.
Duda said it was an honor to discuss the next steps in White House relationships. "Today we are entering another phase, which is the possibility of further increases in American troops in our country," he said.
Trump said he could move U.S. troops from Germany to Poland. The Republican president wants to get thousands of US forces out of Germany because he says the United States is carrying too much of a financial burden for the deployment and has criticized the Berlin government for buying Russian energy.
"We will reduce our armed forces in Germany. Some will come home and others will go to other places, but Poland would be one of those other places," Trump said at the press conference.
"Germany pays Russia billions of dollars to buy energy from Russia. And via the pipeline. And I say what it is about? You spend billions of dollars on Russia, then we should defend you against Russia. I think it is ... very bad, "said Trump.
Washington rejects the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would double the amount of gas sent directly from Russia to Germany and reduce the amount that was laid in Ukraine.
Critics have accused Duda and Trump of calling the visit shortly before the Polish elections to improve the right-wing Duda's chances of winning, as its lead in opinion polls has narrowed in recent weeks.
Duda's campaign focused on gathering his conservative base by attacking the "ideology" he described as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, while promising to protect popular family and pensioner welfare programs that are changing the lives of many poorer Poles to have.
The U.S. Army already has an area support group in the region that can be adjusted to increase the number of U.S. soldiers in Poland.
According to Polish media reports, the United States could offer Poland 2,000 soldiers, 1,000 more than originally agreed in June 2019. These additional troops include the U.S. Army V-Corps from Kentucky and F-16 from Germany.
Another official who knew the talks told Reuters that the relocation of the V-Corps to Poland was under discussion and that Poland could receive more than the 1,000 soldiers agreed last year, but would not say whether 2,000 were deployed.
Trump informed the press conference that the US and Poland are discussing a project to build a nuclear power plant in Poland.
(Reporting by Steve Holland in Washington; additional reporting by Joanna Plucinska in Warsaw; writing by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Howard Goller and Grant McCool)
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