Poland Wants More US Bases and Weapons to Fend Off Russia

A key transfer hub for war materiel to Ukraine, Poland now wants more weapons of its own in the event the war spills over its borders.
Abrams Tank Poland
A M1A2 Abrams battle tank is unloaded at the Baltic Container Terminal in Gdynia, Poland on December 3, 2022. (Photo by MATEUSZ SLODKOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, neighboring Poland has become the key transfer point for western weapons to the battlefield; whether its U.S.-made HIMARS, howitzers, or Leopard tanks from Germany.

Now Poland wants more weapons of its own from its allies and the increased presence of permanent U.S. troops stationed on its soil, to position itself as a future military power in Europe.

“We know Russia well,” Adrian Kubicki, a senior Polish diplomat and the Consul General in New York told VICE News. “It’s been our enemy for centuries.” 


According to him, the country not only wants to replenish its weapon stocks should the war in Ukraine at some point pour over its own borders, but it wants more, permanent NATO bases and military personnel stationed inside Poland as a deterrent to President Vladimir Putin. Two American intelligence sources confirmed to VICE News the importance of Poland to U.S. interests in the region, praising the country for its reliable military and security agencies. 

When Russian forces attacked Kyiv last February, the Polish government immediately began mobilizing its military and intelligence agencies to counter the age-old Kremlin threat. Tanks and soldiers were seen at major border crossings across the entire east of the country as the Ukrainian refugee crisis exploded and Russian warplanes bombed targets mere miles from Polish airspace.

A year later, Poland has become a central player marshalling its NATO allies to increasingly send weapons to Kyiv that were previously seen as unthinkable. From early lobbying for missile deliveries of all varieties, to the latest Leopard tanks, and now a push for fighter jets—Warsaw has been at the forefront of demanding weapons for Ukraine despite reluctant nations fearing an escalation with Russia. 

Poland, once seen as a lone Russia-hawk in NATO, is now being heralded as a nerve center for the future of European security. Poland has ramped up its own defense spending to over 4 percent of its GDP (which has included huge purchases of American tanks) and is signing multiple contracts in new wares for its armed forces, all to counter Putin’s Russia. 


Warsaw’s Agencja Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego (ABW), an internal agency tasked with thwarting national security threats inside Poland has repeatedly caught numerous Russian spies surveying the border with Ukraine and Belarus, while many Polish military advisors are right now schooling Ukrainian soldiers on NATO-style warfare to increase interoperability in the future. 

“We've been very vocal for, I'd say many years already, that Poland should actually be a place for maintaining a permanent base of U.S. troops,” said Kubicki, who also singled out President Joe Biden’s two diplomatic visits to Warsaw in a year as an example of the growing security ties between the two countries. “Because this is probably one of the most, if not the most pivotal spots on earth in terms of global security. 

“And therefore, we think everything that’s happening is proof of that. The invasion of Ukraine is proof of that.”

While there are already a number of smaller U.S. bases inside the country, including a recently added missile defense installation in Redzikowo countering the nuclear-armed northern Russian enclave of Kaliningrad that sits on a Baltic border with Poland, it pales in comparison to Germany. Next door to Poland, it has a number of permanent U.S. bases (including Ramstein airfield) with over 35,000 stationed troops. 


But there are signs that the Pentagon could beef up their permanent troop numbers in Poland. When the full-scale Russian invasion happened in Feb. 2022, the Pentagon immediately sent nearly 5,000 additional troops from the 82nd Airborne Division to reinforce and reassure NATO’s eastern flank. Since then, the number of U.S. troops in Poland has grown.

At the beginning of the Biden Administration, relations between Poland’s governing rightwing party PiS and Washington were frosty, but the war necessitated a change in posture. Ahead of a meeting last week between President Biden and Polish President Andrzej Duda, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby highlighted that Poland was a “close NATO ally” and that a number of American troops were both “permanently” stationed in the country and others on a temporary basis.

“There are some 10,000 American troops in Poland right now, most of them on rotational orders,” said Kirby, pointing out the “important logistical role” the country has played ferrying weapons into Ukraine along its eastern land corridor. Training Ukrainian troops on the Leopard tanks, provided by NATO allies, is happening in a rural area near the western Polish village of Świętoszów. 


And momentum across the broader alliance supporting Ukraine is building to make Poland even more of a pivotal nerve center. Weeks ago, U.K. Member of Parliament Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the Defence Select Committee of the British Parliament, put forward the idea of a “massive arms factory” in Poland that functions as a sort of all-purpose depot for sending weapons to Ukraine. 

The proposal has already reportedly been floated to Warsaw and could include the capacity to build artillery rounds, tanks, and general ammunition. 

When asked about the prospect of an arms production plant on Polish soil, Kubicki said his country would welcome the opportunity.

“Supporting or increasing the security of our region by bringing in modern weaponry,” he said, would not only provide assurances to Poland and its regional allies but “give the clear signal to Putin that whatever he may have planned for the future…the response will be severe.”

Follow Ben Makuch on Twitter.