President signs into law bill ratifying Polish-US defence deal

Piotr Nowak/PAP

President Andrzej Duda has signed into law a bill ratifying a Polish-US deal strengthening defence cooperation, signed in Warsaw on August 15 by Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the President's Office reported on Thursday.

The Senate (Poland's upper house) approved the bill authorising the president to ratify the deal on September 30. The Sejm (lower house) adopted it on September 17.

The Poland – United States Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement envisaged the creation in October 2020 in Poland of the Forward Command of the 5th Corps of the US Army. The units will be responsible for the command of US forces on NATO's eastern flank.

The deal also provides for the possibility of further increasing the number of US troops stationed in Poland. Thanks to the military infrastructure being prepared by Poland, in the event of a possible threat the immediate deployment to our country will be possible of additional forces ensuring a combined presence of up to 20,000 US soldiers.

The accord also defines the legal framework of US soldiers' presence in Poland. The adopted rules have been based to a large extent on regulations, which are common for all NATO members, namely, on the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) of 1951, which Poland adopted when joining NATO.

Under the agreement, Poland would at all times have criminal jurisdiction over the US military personnel. Compared to the current rules, additional solutions which have been introduced are beneficial to Poland, for instance, in the event of a case being brought before an American court, the USA has an obligation to ensure the same rules of treatment to injured parties and witnesses as are binding for citizens of the USA.

In accordance with the deal, Poland will define which parts of shared military bases will be available to US soldiers, but the rules of such use will not limit Polish sovereignty.

Poland, like other countries hosting US forces, will assure them free accommodation and food, a defined annual fuel quota and also selected elements of support in storing arms and equipment as well as the servicing of infrastructure used. The estimated cost of permanently hosting US troops in Poland stands at around PLN 500 million (EUR 113.7 million) a year.

The agreement broadens two accords signed in 2019 by Presidents Duda and Donald Trump, who decided at that time to change the formula of the stationing of US troops in Poland from rotational to enduring. Under the agreement, the number of US soldiers stationed in Poland will be increased by about 1,000 to at least 5,500.

The Polish defence minister described the signing by the president of the bill "as an important moment for the security of our country and the entire NATO."

"We have kept our word. There will be more US soldiers in Poland! President Andrzej Duda has signed into law a bill ratifying the Polish-US deal strengthening defence cooperation. This is a significant moment for the security of our country and the entire alliance," Blaszczak wrote on Twitter.