Poland seeks Nato troops in exchange for backing Cameron's EU benefits plan

Poland has said it wants Nato to send two heavy brigades to the country in response to Russia's intervention in Ukraine

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The Independent Online

Poland could support David Cameron’s efforts to cut benefits paid to migrants from the European Union if the UK backs its request for more Nato troops to ward off any potential Russian aggression.

The Prime Minister is seeking changes to EU rules, including allowing Britain to restrict benefits to migrants, ahead of the planned in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the 28-nation bloc.

With many of its citizens living in Britain, Poland has been the leading opponent of the benefit cuts plan.

However, speaking to the Reuters news agency, the Polish Foreign Minister, Witold Waszczykowski, suggested they might cut a deal that would outrage Moscow.

Asked if Britain could do something in exchange for Polish support for Mr Cameron’s plans, he said: “Of course. Britain could offer something to Poland in terms of international security.

“We still consider ourselves a second-class Nato member-state, because in central Europe ... there aren't, aside from a token presence, any significant allied forces or defence installations, which gives the Russians an excuse to play this region.”

“It would be very difficult for us to accept any discrimination … unless Britain helped us really effectively with regard to the Polish defence ambitions at the [Nato] summit in Warsaw [next month].”

In 2014, Poland's then foreign minister said he wanted Nato to send two heavy brigades - typically between 3,000 and 5,000 troops – to Poland in response to Russia's intervention in Ukraine, where Moscow denies it is actively assisting pro-Russian rebels.

“Britain could support our expectations related to an allied military presence on Polish territory,” Mr Waszczykowski said.

In 1997, Nato and Russia agreed that the alliance would only send a limited number of troops to former Warsaw Pact countries such as Poland and some Nato states are reluctant to break the terms of the deal.

Russia would almost certainly regard a build-up of Nato troops on its borders as a hostile act.

Additional reporting by Reuters