U.S.-Poland SOFA Agreement

In case you missed it, Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher was in Poland yesterday to sign a Status of Forces Agreement. The forces in question are the U.S. troops that will be stationed there to service the Patriot missile batteries that have replaced the “hard” missile defense installations that so riled Russia.

In other words, Poland got what it wanted all along, which was an American troop presence, if a less permanent one, to create on-the-ground commitments on the part of the U.S. The fact that Poland has also committed more troops to Afghanistan suggests that whatever offense was taken as to the manner in which the missile defense decision was communicated, no long-lasting damage was done to the U.S.-Poland defense relationship.

This is also where membership has its privileges, as compared to Georgia. I mentioned Joshua Keating’s post the other day, in which he wondered why Georgia thinks deploying more troops to Afghanistan will help its NATO ambitions any more than its Iraq deployment did. I agree. But if Georgia is unlikely to gain much more from deploying, it could very conceivably lose a whole lot by not deploying.

Keating also mentioned Poland, in the context of visas for Polish visitors to the U.S. The obvious difference here is that while Poland has not gotten as much out of its Iraq and Afghanistan deployments as it hoped for, it is still counting on tangible U.S./NATO security guarantees to a much greater degree than Georgia.

Nevertheless, NATO’s Article V guarantees are not as iron-clad as most people assume,and give a wide amount of leeway to alliance members as to how torespond to an aggression on a member state. The actual wording is that each state, either individually or collectively, will take “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, torestore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.” (My emphasis.)

So Poland has an interest in making sure that if ever the time comes for the U.S. to do a back of the envelope calculation of the balance of accounts, it comes out in the black. Among others who have adopted this “advance interest payment”approach in Afghanistan and Iraq are South Korea and Australia.

Now that there will be American servicemen semi-permanently deployed on Polish territory, Poland has more reason to count on American support, and a greater deterrent against any Russian bullying tactics. But as Laura Chappell’s WPR Strategic Posture Review for Poland (sub. req.) makes clear, that’s not something Polish strategic culture takes for granted. So that explains the deployment to Afghanistan, but also its renewed interest in increasing its participation in EU defense.

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