After the U.S. administration revised its plans for a missile defence shield in September 2009, the newly designed Patriot missile battery, accompanied by a contingent of U.S. soldiers, arrived in Poland on Sunday. The mission is considered to be the most significant deployment of U.S. forces on Polish ground.
The new Patriot battery is a surface-to-air defence system, meant to intercept missiles. Upon its arrival at Morag in northern Poland, just sixty kilometres from the Russian exclave Kaliningrad, the battery is to be installed within the next days by Polish and U.S. military forces. A contingent of the latter one will provide training for Polish soldiers. The deployment of the Patriots is foreseen for the next two years. They will be positioned in one-month periods, four times a year. For this purpose, between one hundred and one hundred fifty American soldiers will be stationed permanently during that period in Poland.
Russia, which declared its disapproval about the U.S. missile defence plans in January, did not express any concerns yet upon the recent arrival. However, as Andrew Paul, a spokesman of the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw declared, the Patriot missile battery is not intended to be a threat to anyone. Rather, the new anti-missile system is supposed to help modernise Poland’s air defence, as well as comply with NATO’s plan of a European missile defence system.
As a NATO member since 1999, Poland had expected the missile defence shield in 2008, as it had been agreed before with the Bush Administration. 10 long-range missile interceptors were supposed to be deployed to defend against potential threats, such as attacks from Iran or North Korea. Accordingly, Warsaw was disappointed when U.S. President Barack Obama decided to revise – and therefore postpone – the missile defence plans last September. In addition to that, Poland remains on the NATO list to permanently host U.S. missile defences; however not before 2018. The plan envisages land- and sea-based versions of the Standard Missile 3 intended to counter Iranian short- and medium-range threats.
The deployment of the Patriot missile battery also has a symbolic meaning for Poland. In its existence as a full member of NATO, the formerly communist country will host U.S. defences for the first time. Both U.S. and Polish officials are expected to visit the missile battery at its military base at Morag on Wednesday.