PENTAGON - A proposed permanent U.S. military base in Poland, nicknamed "Fort Trump," is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Negotiations on establishing the base are "ongoing this very week," Kathryn Wheelbarger, the acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
Wheelbarger's comments came as John Rood, the undersecretary of defense for policy, met with his Polish counterpart to work out details of what Rood called a "generous offer" from Poland, according to defense officials.
Warsaw has offered to contribute at least $2 billion to place permanent U.S. forces and assets in Poland, a NATO ally, in an attempt to deter any possible Russian aggression. NATO has expanded its presence near Russia's borders to reassure its eastern members, a buildup Russia has described as a threat to its security.
"We've come forward with, we think, a very serious, robust offer, and we're working out some of the technicalities this very week," Wheelbarger said. "We hope to have a very solid foundation to work from coming out of this meeting today."
She added that it would most likely take six months to a year for any base agreement to be finalized.
Permanent base seen as 'helpful'
The U.S. military would not need to start budgeting for the base for at least two or three years, according to Army Gen. Curtis "Mike" Scaparrotti, the head of U.S. European Command.
Asked about making rotational U.S. forces permanent in Poland, Scaparrotti told lawmakers he's "perfectly content with the large forces that we are rotating," but a more permanent base would be "helpful."
Negotiations on the proposed base with Warsaw come amid reports that the Trump administration is considering a plan in which wealthy nations such as Germany, Japan and South Korea would be required to pay the full cost of U.S. soldiers deployed on their territory, plus 50 percent more for the privilege of American defense.
Wheelbarger denied that the "cost plus 50" idea was being discussed for European allies, telling lawmakers, "My understanding is that rhetoric came from conversations from the Pacific; it's not a conversation we've had in my portfolio at all."