The United States this week deployed a Patriot missile battery in Poland near the border with Russia, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, April 22).
A contingent of U.S. soldiers has accompanied the air-defense system to an installation at Morag, which stands 37 miles from the Kaliningrad region in Russia. The soldiers are expected to provide training to Polish military personnel on using the Patriot system.
Moscow has previously questioned the U.S. plan, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stating in January he could not understand the desire "to create the impression as if Poland is bracing itself against Russia." There was no immediate response from the Kremlin this week to the news.
Warsaw had expected the Patriot missiles through its 2008 deal with the Bush administration to house 10 long-range missile interceptors. The Obama administration scrapped that program in favor of a revised missile defense structure for Europe, but went ahead with deployment of the Patriots (Vanessa Gera, Associated Press/Sun-Sentinel, May 24).
The Patriots are a "defensive system" that are "not intended as a threat against anyone," said Andrew Paul, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, addressing Russian concerns. He said providing instructions to Polish military personnel on the system is intended to help "Warsaw modernize its air defenses," the Wall Street Journal reported (Gordon Fairclough, Wall Street Journal, May 25).
The battery is expected to remain in Poland for one-month periods four times per year, along with about 150 U.S. soldiers, Reuters reported (Reuters/Yahoo!News, May 24).
Deployments would continue for two years, AP reported.
Poland remains on the list to host U.S. missile defenses beginning around 2018, under the Obama plan for European missile defense that would emphasize land- and sea-based versions of the Standard Missile 3 intended to counter Iranian short- and medium-range threats.
Warsaw has also indicated it would like to buy some Patriots of its own, though no agreements have been signed (Gera, Associated Press).