Anti-missile systems to be based in Poland

A new Status of Forces Agreement reached by the United States and Poland will see two anti-missile systems deployed on Polish soil.

Jaroslaw Adamowski of the Christian Science Monitor writes:

The deployment, under a new Status of Forces Agreement reached between Poland and the US, calls for US troops to install and operate a mobile, land-based set of short- and medium-range missiles to defend against incoming attacks.

The equipment includes SM-3 IA missiles and a MIM-104 Patriot mobile missile battery. Both types of missile are designed to shoot down short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. The missiles could arrive in Poland as soon as the first quarter of 2010.

Though Russia is unhappy about the growing military ties between the US and former Warsaw Pact nations, the current plan is more modest than the earlier one, which included long-range missile interceptors. The missiles to be stationed in Poland will not have the capacity to be used offensively against Russia and aren't capable of shooting down the long-range missiles in the Russian arsenal.

"This agreement constitutes a proof for the strong cooperation between our two nations," said Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of State for arms control and international security affairs. "I hope that it will become only stronger."

The Polish news agency PAP quoted Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich as saying that "the SOFA deal should be ratified soon by the parliament," which should "permit the US to meet the commitments it had undertaken last August."

So what's the difference? The article hints that Poland was insisting that the agreement reached with President Bush in August of 2008 to base the more "robust" anti-missile system capable of shooting down Russian ICBM's be honored. Otherwise, it appears the Obama administration had no intention of basing any anti-missile system in Poland.

The Patriots are an old system but the upgrade the Poles are getting is very good. And since Moscow's objections to this latest move are muted, one can conclude that they are satisfied the new systems are no threat to them.

This is obviously a good move since the SOFA will allow US troops to be based in Poland. But one wonders why the Obama administration couldn't have offered these anti-missile systems as an alternative last September when he abruptly canceled the previous deployment.

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