In early November, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak approved the schedule for the formation of the fourth regular division of the Polish Army, according to Polish media.
The new division is to be deployed in the the eastern part of the country near the borders with Belarus and Ukraine – the 18th Iron Mechanized Division (18. “Żelazna” Dywizji Zmechanizowanej).
At present, the Polish ground forces include three divisions (the 11th armored cavalry and the 12th and 16th mechanized), consisting of a total of ten brigades, as well as six separate brigades. The fourth existing division (1st Warsaw Mechanized) was disbanded in 2011 (four divisions have remained in the Polish army since 2001).
However, due to reportedly increased tensions in Europe, in 2016, the Polish Defense Ministry decided to deploy the fourth division in the Eastern part of the country and its formation has now been turned into a reality.
The control of the 18th mechanized division (including the 18th control battalion) was initiated on September 17, 2018 in Siedlce (50 km east of Warsaw). The management of the division should be set up by the end of 2018, and by September 2019 the main command structures of the division should be established.
By the end of 2019, the 18th Division will include two existing brigades – the 1st Warsaw Armored Brigade named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko (1 Warszawska Brygada Pancerna im. Tadeusza Kościuszki), stationed in Vesola (Warsaw) and part of the 16th the mechanized division.
Brigadier General Jarek Gromadzinsky, previously the deputy commander of the 12th mechanized division, was appointed as the commander of the 18th Mechanized Division and took office on September 17th.
The formation of the third new mechanized brigade, which would become a part of the 18th is planned to begin in the fall of 2019. It is expected to reach combat readiness by mid-2022 and it will be deployed in Lublin.
The formation of the divisional units of the 18th division (including the reconnaissance regiment, artillery regiment, air defense regiment, etc.) will be carried out until 2026.
The costs of the formation of the new division are expected to be approximately $7.1 billion, according to the Ministry of Defense.
The division was initially announced by Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak in September 2018. “I decided to create a new unit of the Polish Army, with its command located in Siedlce. Brigadier-General Jaroslaw Gromadzinski will be the new commander of the 18th Mechanized Division,” the website of the Polish Defense Ministry cited the minister as saying.
Blaszczak said the new division, which can number up to 15,000 troops, will strengthen the eastern flank and respond to “operational needs.”
The base is a move to bolster NATO’s eastern flank against the alleged, and somewhat mythical, “Russian Aggression.”
On September 18th, one day after Brigadier General Jarek Gromadzinsky took command of the newly announced division, US President Donald Trump said that the US would consider a permanent military presence in Poland.
Trump announced the possibility after speaking with Polish President Andrzej Duda. “Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland. If they’re willing to do that, it’s something we will certainly talk about.”
Poland has been requesting a permanent US military base since President George W. Bush was in office. The Bush administration had considered the possibility of using one of Poland’s military bases as part of its missile defense system and locating ground-based interceptors there, however nothing actually took place.
The possible US army base would be called “Fort Trump,” according to the Polish President.
In an interview in September, Estonian defense minister Jüri Luik said his nation would welcome “any increase” of U.S. forces in the region, noting “you don’t have to be a big strategist to understand the U.S. has the biggest deterrence power.”
A massive NATO military drill took place in Poland and the Baltics in June 2018. Saber Strike 18 ran from June 4th through June 15th and involved 18,000 soldiers from 19 nations, primarily NATO members.
The multinational exercise, which is being held for the eighth time, “is the platform to validate our collective capability to rapidly respond to and reinforce allies in a time of crisis,” said US Army Europe. It is “a clear demonstration of the commitment and solidarity of the alliance.”
Expectedly, the US military denied any claims that the exercises are a provocation to Russia.
“Saber Strike 18 is not a provocation of Russia but an exercise with our allies,” US Army Europe said. “This is what normal deterrence business looks like.”