10:43 Sep. 8, 2016
Poland to buy U.S. air and missile defense systems
TO and Russia are in a missile race, and Poland may have just raised the stakes.
The Polish government announced Tuesday that it would buy the U.S. Army's Patriot air-and-missile defense system, a move widely seen as a response to Moscow's upcoming deployment of nuclear-capable missiles to Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.
Five other NATO countries already deploy the Patriot system — which can knock down missiles, drones, and small aircraft — but none are as far to the east as Poland, nor so close to Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave which is already bristling with missile systems and other advanced Russian military hardware.
Poland has been in talks with various defense contractors for several years about building a missile defense capability, but Russia's likely deployment of Iskander advanced nuclear-capable missiles to Kaliningrad by 2019 seems to have forced Warsaw's hand. Each Iskander battery has two guided missiles with a range of about 300 miles. Russia has already sent Iskander systems to Kaliningrad twice for exercises, but has later withdrawn them.
"We also need to have an answer to it. Those Iskander missiles can hit Poland but also Germany," Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said earlier this year. He added Tuesday that his country plans to eventually buy eight Patriot missile batteries, and while he wouldn't discuss cost, the deal could be worth as much as USD 5.6 billion.