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Poland in talks with U.S. about boosting troop presence, prime minister says

PM: Poland in talks with U.S. for more troops
Poland in talks with U.S. about increasing troop presence, prime minister says 05:43

Washington — Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Sunday that Poland is in talks with the Biden administration about increasing the U.S. troop presence in his country as President Biden prepares to visit Poland this week to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"We are in the process of discussion with President Biden's administration about making their presence more permanent, and increasing them," Morawiecki told "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan. 

He also expressed gratitude for weaponry provided by the United States, and reiterated the importance of NATO for deterring Russian aggression.

"I'm very grateful also for sending new Patriot systems and other very modern weapons and munitions. Because this is also, to some extent, a proxy for [the] presence of soldiers, but of course, the two go in tandem," Morawiecki said, referencing U.S. initiatives to replenish equipment that Poland has sent to Ukraine. "I also recall the words of President Biden from last fall, from his last visit in Poland, when he said that every inch or square inch of NATO's country's territory will be defended, and Russia is not going to put any inroads into those countries."

U.S. troops were first sent to Poland in 2017 as part of a NATO effort to bolster the alliance's eastern front in response to Russia's aggressive behavior in the region. Several thousand reinforcements were deployed to the country before Russia's invasion last year, and there are currently about 11,000 U.S. service members in Poland on a rotating basis.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, NATO has bolstered its troop presence across Europe. Last June, Mr. Biden announced the U.S. was permanently stationing a command in Poland for the first time. The permanent force does not include combat troops, in order to comply with a 1997 agreement between Russia and NATO in which the alliance agreed to keep combat units out of Eastern Europe.

The White House announced earlier this month that Mr. Biden would be traveling to Poland this week to discuss cooperation between the U.S. and Poland, as well as their collective efforts to support Ukraine and bolster NATO.

"I expect that there will be very strong confirmation of our resilience and our joint efforts to defeat Russia in Ukraine," Morawiecki said Sunday. "Some Western European politicians say that Russia cannot win this war and Ukraine cannot be defeated. We have to change that paradigm and we have to say, Ukraine must win and Russia must be defeated. And I believe that the words of President Biden will reassure all [of] Europe that the United States is with us in this fight for freedom and peace."

Poland has been a major source of support to Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict, hosting more than 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees and spending billions to provide housing, health care and other services. Poland borders both Ukraine and Belarus, where Russian troops have been stationed since before the start of the conflict, and could be the next country in Vladimir Putin's crosshairs if Ukraine were to fall to Russia.

Last Monday, Moldova's president accused Russia of planning to foment protests calling for an overthrow of her government in an attempt to destabilize the country. Moldova borders Ukraine, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that the U.S. has "deep concern" about Russia's actions.

Asked if Poland has seen evidence that Russia could target other countries, including his, Morawiecki replied: "Yes, I do see lots of fingerprints of Russian forces, Russian services in Moldova," adding that "this is a very weak, very weak country and we all need to help them."

Morawiecki also mentioned other provocations by Russia, reaching beyond Ukraine's borders. 

"One of the missiles of [the] Ukrainian defense system fell on Polish territory, killing people. And this was a direct consequence of a rockets and missiles attack from Russia on Ukraine," he said, referencing an incident in November that heightened fears of a NATO ally getting drawn into the fighting. 

The prime minister was also hopeful that fighter jets will be delivered to Ukraine in the near future to aid in their fight. 

"There were many things beyond our imagination at the beginning of the war, and then, [the] unimaginable became realizable. And so [it] was with tanks, so was with the Patriot anti-aircraft, anti-missile, anti-rocket system," Morawiecki said.

Morawiecki also echoed a statement he made this week at the Munich Security Conference, where he expressed his willingness to provide Ukraine with Soviet-era MiG fighter jets. The U.S. agreed to send tanks to Ukraine last month, but has so far resisted calls to send fighter jets.

"I believe that also with fighter jets, eventually, there will be fighter jets from the West, delivered to Ukraine. Poland's position is, we can do this, but only in combination with other NATO allies, and in particular, under the leadership of the United States," Morawiecki said.

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