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15 Jan, 2024 15:43

Poland will welcome German troops – minister

Berlin’s forces haven’t been deployed in the country since Hitler invaded in 1939
Poland will welcome German troops – minister

Poland is prepared to host German troops on its territory for the first time since World War II, Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Szejn told the Rzeczpospolita newspaper on Sunday. Szejn’s statement marks a dramatic break from his predecessors, who swore that it would be “seven generations” before German boots marched in Poland again.

Shortly after the conflict between Russia and Ukraine escalated in 2022, Germany’s then-ambassador to Warsaw, Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven, penned an op-ed suggesting “a permanent transfer of troops to Poland” to reinforce NATO’s presence in the east of the country. Poland’s conservative government shot down the idea, with Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski declaring on the campaign trail last year that it would be “seven generations” before Poles would accept a German garrison on their territory.

Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party (PiS) is now out of power, however, and, while jailing a former minister and deputy minister and replacing the management teams across state media, Poland’s new pro-EU government has taken a more conciliatory attitude toward the country’s western neighbor and former occupier.

“When the war is taking place beyond our eastern border, any help and cooperation from our allies is most welcome,” Szejn told Rzeczpospolita. “So if the Germans want to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank in Poland as they did in Lithuania, herzlich willkommen!” he added, using the German phrase for “warm welcome.”

“Germany is not only our ally, but also our economic partner,” Szeijn continued. “Jaroslaw Kaczynski will turn his verbal and diplomatic aggression towards Germans into a leading element of the narrative in domestic politics. However, foreign policy should be effective, not showy.”

It is unclear whether the German government intends to pursue a deployment in Poland. NATO already has a permanent garrison of American, British, Croatia, and Romanian soldiers stationed at a base near the Belarusian border, and a permanent garrison of US troops near the western Polish city of Poznan. 

German forces invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, an action that marked the beginning of the Second World War. The Polish Institute of National Remembrance estimates that up to 5.6 million Poles and Jews were murdered by the Nazi occupiers between 1939 and 1945.

Under the PiS government, Poland demanded around $1.3 trillion in reparations from Germany for losses incurred during the occupation. Szejn said his government – which is led by Donald Tusk, a man Kaczynski once described as a “German agent” – still intends to seek compensation from Berlin, but would work with Germany “in such a way as to find a favorable and fair solution for Poland.”

Russia has long considered the eastward expansion of NATO and the buildup of the bloc’s forces in Eastern Europe as a threat to its security.