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Biden Says No Need for More US Troops Ahead of Poland’s Request

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said there was no need for additional US troops to bolster Poland’s border ahead of a request from that country’s head of state for more personnel and military equipment to ease worries over Russian aggression on NATO’s eastern flank.

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“There’s no need for more troops at the Polish border, but I’m meeting with the prime minister tomorrow,” Biden told reporters on Monday.

President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Donald Tusk will meet Biden at the White House on Tuesday at a moment when Russia appears to be gaining the upper hand in its war in Ukraine, Poland’s eastern neighbor.

Since the invasion two years ago, Poland has become the gateway for around 80% of Western humanitarian and military aid to Kyiv and has seen an increase in the alliance’s presence on its territory. The US last year set up a garrison in the western Polish city of Poznan and has 10,000 troops stationed in the country. The meeting with Biden coincides with the 25th anniversary of Poland’s membership in NATO.

Duda, who is also the head of the country’s armed forces, will combine his appeal for more troops with a request for the US to speed up deliveries of military equipment and sell more advanced arms to Poland, according to a person familiar with his thinking, who declined to be named because the talks are private.

The visit takes place at a pivotal moment in Polish politics, in which Duda and Tusk are adversaries. Since coming to power in December, Tusk’s government has sought to pry former ruling nationalists, who backed Duda in his two terms as president, away from state institutions including the public broadcaster and judiciary.

Tusk suggested on Monday that, when it comes to defense, the two are aligned.

“I differ politically with President Andrzej Duda in almost everything, but when it comes to the security of our homeland, we must and will act together,” he said in a post on the X social-media platform. “Not only during a visit to the USA.”

The push comes as Poland is gearing up to spend around 4% of its economic output on defense this year, part of an effort to deter Russian aggression and replace gear donated to Ukraine. A significant share of the orders is going to US industry.

Last year alone, Washington approved a planned sale to Poland of Apache helicopters and related equipment worth an estimated $12 billion as well as about $10 billion in weapons including 18 precision HIMARS rocket launchers. That’s on top of additional purchases, including Abrams tanks and Patriot missiles.

Duda preempted the visit, telling a meeting with Tusk’s government and party leaders on Monday that he’ll propose NATO member states raise the minimum level of defense spending to 3% of output in his talks with Biden and with alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday.

The proposal follows comments by former President Donald Trump, who is making another White House bid, saying that he told a NATO ally during his presidency that he would encourage Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to countries that didn’t meet the alliance’s defense spending obligations.

Duda famously asked the then-president during a White House visit in 2018 to set up a permanent US military base, offering to call it “Fort Trump.” Both men are still in touch.

(Updates with Biden remarks in first two paragraphs)

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