Anders talks security and Russia with TFN

Being brought up in the UK and spending a big part of her life in the United States, Minister Anna Maria Anders is a firm believer in the importance and strength of the Transatlantic community. Kalbar/TFN

Poland’s security policy, carried on by both the current and previous governments, has put much emphasis on building and maintaining a strong alliance with the United States.

All this as a contingency for the biggest perceived threat – a Russian attack, whether conventional or hybrid.

Currently, American soldiers are involved in two security initiatives in Poland. NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence together with British, Croatian and Romanian troops, as well as the Atlantic Resolve operation with infantry, air force and command elements.

Yet the Polish government’s ambition is to have a permanent US Army base, which Poland is ready to partially pay for.

Minister Anders said: “Well I know that we offered to pay 2 billion dollars, so I can confirm that. (…) People who look at it, I suppose a little bit naively, would say ‘We really don’t need American troops in Germany anymore. So why don’t we just move them from Germany to Poland?

“Well, that’s not so easy. First of all, Germany would object, definitely. Russia would see a permanent base as being a form of aggression. And let’s face it, it’s extremely expensive.”

The cost of establishing a military base in Poland and aggravating Kremlin are two of the main arguments against it. The growing unease caused by Russian actions seems to be turning the tide though.

“I have heard that President Trump and other people in his administration I spoke to, I did speak to various Congress people, I went to Capitol Hill, I would say along party lines right now Republicans tend to support it. Democrats, yes also, to a certain extent. I think the general opinion is ‘Let’s see how much it costs and take it from there’.”

Ensuring the security of NATO’s Eastern Flank, especially Poland and the Baltic states is not only dependant on political will.

As noted in a Washington Post article, and mentioned by the minister, the geography and infrastructure of the Suwałki Corridor may make it almost impossible to bring NATO troops in time in case of aggression. The Suwałki Corridor is a narrow strip of land linking Poland with Lithuania and bordering with Russian Kaliningrad from north-west and Belarus from south-east.

Minister Anders explained: “We have Kaliningrad on one side with 300,000 Russian troops and Belarus, who is an ally of Russia, on the other side. It is a corridor that is 65 km wide and a 107 km long. If Putin wanted to find out how NATO would react, how to test NATO, it would be interesting to see what would happen. So Suwałki is very much in the front of everybody’s minds right now.

“One of the reasons for having a permanent base is the fact that transportation, communication in my district or in whole of that part of Europe is very poor. It would be sufficient for a tank to break down on one of the narrow roads to block everything.”

Poland’s turbulent history, especially the invasion by both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in 1939, as well as her father’s, General Władysław Anders’ experience makes her wary of Russian intentions. The wars in Georgia and Ukraine, followed by the almost commonplace meddling in Western elections keeps on fuelling these doubts.

“Being the daughter of General Anders has made me very suspicious of Russia. I grew up that way. My father knew Russia very well, he was imprisoned in Russia for 22 months, spoke perfect Russian. So I was brought up saying ‘Oh, you know, you just do not trust Russia’.”