(Bloomberg) -- Poland has spoken to the US about sharing atomic weapons, President Andrzej Duda said, a provocative statement that comes as Western nations confront Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
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The US and NATO have publicly stated that they have no plan to deploy nuclear weapons in countries that joined the alliance after the collapse of communism more than three decades ago. A White House official said they were unaware of the issue being raised and referred further questions to Poland’s government.
The Biden administration is seeking to walk a fine between supplying Ukraine with advanced weaponry while avoiding moves that would cause the Kremlin to further escalate the conflict. Poland, NATO’s largest member from the former Warsaw Pact, is one of the most vocal proponents of bolstering the alliance’s eastern flank.
“The problem, first of all, is that we don’t have nuclear weapons,” Duda said in an interview with the Gazeta Polska newspaper published on Wednesday. “There is always a potential opportunity to participate in nuclear sharing.”
Nuclear sharing can comprise anything from offering escort or reconnaissance jets for a nuclear mission, or offering dual-capable aircraft available for nuclear roles to actually hosting an ally’s nuclear weapons. Allies such as Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy and Turkey host U.S. nuclear weapons on their soil, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
‘Open’ to Hosting
A senior diplomat in Warsaw said Duda’s comments could potentially include any of those activities. The diplomat, who declined to be named because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said hosting the weapons would be in the security interest of Poland, the region and all of Europe.
The Polish president didn’t specify who he’d spoken with in the US government. Hosting nuclear weapons would defy warnings from President Vladimir Putin that Russia will respond to any expansion of the alliance’s military capabilities in its former back yard.
In April, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s de-facto leader as the head of the ruling Law & Justice Party, told the German Welt am Sontag newspaper that his country was “open” to hosting US nuclear weapons.
“We have spoken to American leaders about whether the US is considering such a possibility” of Poland sharing the weapons, Duda told the newspaper. “The topic is open.”
Putin has in the past days hinted that further escalation in Ukraine may involve arms that haven’t been used in war since 1945. Before invading Ukraine, he demanded NATO roll back to positions it held in 1997, before the rush of former communist countries to join the alliance’s protective umbrella against their former Soviet master.
In April, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Poland’s government “has recently caused deep concern: The line is extremely militant, anti-Russian, and the proposed actions, of course, can only lead to a further increase in tension on the continent,” according to Prime state news agency.
Poland is also holding separate talks with a number of countries, including the US, about acquiring atomic energy.
(Updates with comment from White House official starting in second paragraph.)
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