WARSAW, Poland — Polish authorities are in talks with the United States about the possibility of including the Polish Air Force in NATO’s nuclear sharing program, according to Polish President Andrzej Duda.

“This has been a topic of Polish-American talks for some time now. I have held talks on this issue several times. I will not hide that, when I was asked about it, I expressed our readiness,” Duda told local daily Fakt in an interview. “Russia has been increasingly militarizing the Kaliningrad oblast. Most recently, it has been relocating its nuclear weapons to Belarus.”

Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has pushed Minsk towards an even closer military collaboration with Moscow, with Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko announcing in 2022 that Russian personnel had upgraded his country’s jets to allow them to carry tactical atomic weapons. In June of 2023 Russian President Vladimir Putin said his government would deploy some of its nuclear capabilities to Belarus by the following month.

On the NATO side, outfitting Poland’s combat aircraft to be able to carry atomic bombs would bolster the alliance’s deterrence capabilities toward Russia and Belarus, said Duda.

“If there is a decision by our allies to locate nuclear weapons as part of nuclear sharing also on our territory, to strengthen the security of NATO’s eastern flank, then we are ready for this,” Duda said.

In Poland’s political system, the president is the military’s supreme commander, but he lacks the political power to decide whether the country joins international defense programs.

Meanwhile, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, whose centrist coalition opposes Duda and the Law and Justice party backing the president, suggested the matter is far from settled, giving Duda a dig for speaking out of turn.

“I care greatly about Poland’s security, about it being as well-armed as possible. But I would also like that potential initiatives are, above all, very well prepared by the people who are responsible for them,” Tusk said during a press conference on April 22.

Duda did not say which Polish aircraft could be used to carry nuclear weapons. However, in January 2020, Poland inked a deal worth $4.6 billion to acquire 32 F-35A Lightning II fighter jets from the United States.

Earlier this month, a spokesperson for the Polish ministry told Defense News the contract’s implementation “is proceeding in line with the schedule. The first six of the ordered F-35A aircraft will be delivered to a U.S. air base in the years 2024 to 2025, and they will be used to train Polish pilots.”

“The new fighters will arrive to Poland in 2026, and they will continue to be delivered until 2030 in batches of between four and six units per year,” said the spokesperson.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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