Poland signs $4.75bn air-defence deal
Two-thirds of Poland’s military equipment dates back to the Cold War when it was in the Soviet-controlled Warsaw Pact.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said the contract for the aircraft and missile defences was “historic”.
Warsaw is reportedly negotiating with the US to buy more Patriots, a new radar and a low-cost interceptor missile as part of a second phase of modernisation.
Poland’s deal, approved in November by the US State Department, envisaged a sale worth up to US$10.5 billion but Warsaw brought the price down by opting for a less ambitious command system and procuring some elements domestically.
“It’s a lot of money, but we also know from our historical experience that security has no price,” Duda announced.
The Patriot was compatible with technology used by Nato troops in Poland and included 16 launchers, four radars and a fire-control system, Duda said.
The deal is likely to stoke Russia-Nato tension. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he views the defence systems in central Europe as a “great danger” and has threatened to enhance Russia’s missile-strike capability.
But Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki claims the Patriot system will boost security in Poland and its Nato neighbours in an “unprecedented way” as Nato scrambles to react to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine from Kiev.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov told the state media in November that Patriot deployments were part of a US strategy to surround Russia with missile defence systems “under the pretext of mythical threats to security”.
Russia has reportedly permanently deployed nuclear-capable missiles in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, which borders Poland and Lithuania.
Warsaw’s decision may raise pressure on the US to meet Baltic requests to strengthen air defences.
While Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are seeking their own missile defences, the high cost for their small economies makes any quick purchases difficult.
Fourteen countries, including six Nato members, already own Patriot systems, with more purchases looming.
Romania in November signed a Patriot deal to help protect its airspace and neutral Sweden has submitted a formal request for the equipment.
Switzerland last week said it was also looking at the Patriot among other systems in a military expansion due to start this year.
Increasing tensions in the revival of the Cold War,
the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English city of Salisbury this month led Poland to expel Russian diplomats.
The Patriot in the US. Picture credit: ACC