Polish leaders plan to talk things out on nuclear weapons

Polish leaders plan to talk things out on nuclear weapons

WARSAW, Poland — Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk plans to discuss Poland’s potential involvement in NATO’s nuclear sharing program with President Andrzej Duda, Tusk said this week.

The announcement came in response to Duda’s declaration that Poland was ready to host U.S. nuclear weapons, and that talks with Washington to that end had been ongoing.

Polish leaders have previously telegraphed their willingness to join the alliance’s nuclear-sharing scheme to deter Russian aggression. That was especially the case when the right-wing Law and Justice party, which backs Duda, was in charge of the Cabinet and held the prime minister’s office. During the Trump administration, like-minded leaders in Warsaw sought to capitalize on Trump’s disdain for Europe, and Germany in particular, offering to host U.S. assets and withdrawn from elsewhere on the continent.

Tusk, who came to power when his Civic Coalition alliance and its partners won the general election last fall, has said he wants to repair Poland’s ties to the European Union and NATO. In that context, any discussions about altering the alliance’s atomic umbrella would be held by all member nations.

NATO’s nuclear-sharing arrangement entails select countries in Europe storing American atomic bombs that they would mount on their own jets and deploy in the case of nuclear war.

The alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg put cold water on the idea of Poland becoming part of the mix when asked by reporters during an April 23 visit to Warsaw.

“There are no plans to expand the NATO sharing arrangements, no plans to deploy any more nuclear weapons in any additional NATO countries,” Stoltenberg said.

The issue came up in Berlin the next day.

A report by public broadcaster ZDF summarized the responses of two government spokespersons in a press conference in the German capital as favorable to the prospect of nuclear weapons on Polish soil.

However, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence later told Defense News the positive reaction was not aimed specifically at the nuclear question, but rather a general comment on Poland’s commitment to strengthening the European Union and NATO, and Tusk’s plans to partake in the Germany-led European Sky Shield initiative (ESSI), in particular.

The Polish prime minister reiterated his country’s interest in joining the ESSI scheme earlier this week during a joint appearance here with Stoltenberg and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. He also pledged to collaborate with Britain as part of its air defense-focused Delivering Integrated Air and Missile Operational Networked Defences (DIAMOND) initiative.

“We are intensively cooperating [with the U.K.] as part of the British DIAMOND initiative which also serves our security, including our air security,” Tusk said.

Poland’s Narew short-range air defense system is based on MBDA’s extended-range variant of the Common Anti-Air Modular Missile, a weapon jointly developed by the U.K. and Italy.

Presented by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in August 2022 in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the ESSI project now includes more than 20 countries. The program’s objectives comprise enhancing the interoperability of air defense systems and streamlining joint procurement of capabilities across Europe.

Sebastian Sprenger in Cologne, Germany, contributed to this report.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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