While the U.S. empire has long maintained a constellation of military bases and outposts across the planet as part of its strategy for global hegemony, the president of Poland on Tuesday exposed a new way foreign governments may try to exploit President Donald Trump's narcissistic impulses for their own geopolitical gain.
During a news conference at the White House, Polish President Andrzej Duda declared through a translator, "I said that I would very much like for us to set up permanent American bases in Poland, which we would call Fort Trump."
During a joint news conference, Polish President Andrzej Duda urged President Trump deploy more US troops and military equipment to Poland, even suggesting the US establish a permanent military base and name it "Fort Trump." https://t.co/f27Djj6uW2 pic.twitter.com/CoCWrOcV0g
— CNN (@CNN) September 19, 2018
"Standing nearby," as the Washington Post described the scene, "Trump smirked and raised his right eyebrow before pursing his lips as he appeared to consider the possibility of an American military base in Poland emblazoned with his name."
While the Post concluded that Duda's "naming proposal appeared to be in jest"—whereas his seriousness was undoubtable regarding his claims that Poland is an "attractive" location for a base due to its "strategic location in Europe"—the prospect of Fort Trump triggered a storm of amused and alarmed responses across the internet.
— Herb Marselas (@HerbMarselas) September 18, 2018
"Fort Trump" is hilarious. Give it to the Poles, they know how to play to Trump's ego. https://t.co/nSft5ICAAY
— Pam Collier (@PamCollier2) September 19, 2018
Preliminary design for Fort Trump released pic.twitter.com/lCIovKIr1z
— Explore Northeast (@Explore_NE) September 18, 2018
Does #FortTrump come with a golf course ?
— JTV (@jayv1974) September 18, 2018
While Duda and his party have a history of aiming to please the president—even busing in supporters to ensure a cheering crowd for Trump's "disturbing" speech in Poland last year—not everyone was convinced that Trump would succumb to such flattery.
"The track record for leaders who've tried to flatter and cajole their way into Trump’s affections is mixed," Joshua Keating wrote for Slate on Tuesday. "This is not to say that Trump doesn't like receiving compliments and being feted and fussed over. He clearly loves it! But flattery doesn't seem to be an effective method of persuading him... Trump generally does what he wants, no matter how nice people are to him."
Though regardless of whether Trump is influenced by the Polish president playing to his fondness for having his name boldly featured on big buildings, it is likely that Trump could be encouraged by some of his hawkish advisers to pursue a base in Poland. For years, as VICE notes, "Poland has sought a permanent U.S. military base on its soil as a guarantee against Russian aggression, an anxiety that's only become more acute following Moscow's incursions into Georgia and Ukraine."
According to VICE:
In May, a proposal from Poland's Ministry of National Defense to the U.S. government leaked to the press, which showed Poland was prepared to contribute $2 billion towards the establishment of such a base. Poland currently hosts about 3,000 U.S. troops and units from other NATO nations on its soil, but only on a rotational basis, and wants U.S. troops there permanently.
Analysts say such a move will only fuel the rising tensions between NATO and Russia, which is spooked by the alliance's growing footprint in its former sphere of influence in eastern Europe. When Poland's request became public in May, the Kremlin warned that warned that any such eastward expansion by NATO would undermine stability in Europe.
Trump, who expressed appreciation for Poland's financial pledge, said Tuesday, "We're looking at it very seriously, I know Poland likes the idea very much, and it's something that we are considering."
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday that the military is studying options but no decisions have been made.
"It's not just about a base. It's about training ranges, it's about maintenance facilities at the base, all these kinds of things," Mattis said. "There's a host of details we've got to study alongside the Poles."