Polish Deputy Defense Minister Stanislaw Komorowski said Oct. 16 that the United States will deploy a Patriot air defense battery to Poland and that the discussions with Washington about hosting part of a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) system are ongoing. Komorowski made his remarks after talks with U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow. Although there is still no official U.S. response to the Polish announcement, the revelation tracks closely with STRATFOR's forecast that the U.S. cancellation of the Bush-era BMD program in Poland and the Czech Republic does not constitute a serious break with Washington's intention to maintain Poland as its key ally in Europe. It is not yet clear what this deployment might actually entail. On one end of the spectrum is a long-term deployment of a Patriot battery. On the other end is a short joint exercise where a U.S. Patriot unit is in Poland only briefly — and perhaps with inert rather than live missiles. The former is a major step for Washington; the latter is merely a signal to Moscow. In any event, nothing irreversible has been done. But the bottom line is that the potential of U.S. Patriot missiles in Poland will not please Russia, which is why the United States is floating the idea. Russia opposed the original BMD in Poland not because the system would have posed a direct threat, but because it symbolized increasing U.S. presence in a key Central European state near Russia. In a way, the Patriot missiles in Poland are an even greater threat to Russian interests in the region because they are actually operational and will constitute not only a high-tech operational defense for Poland, but also a deepening symbiotic relationship between Warsaw and Washington. The United States had hoped that with its initial move to scrap BMD in Central Europe, Russia would reciprocate by toning down its support of Iran. Instead, Moscow stated it would continue its military-technical cooperation. Washington has since made it clear to Moscow that it has the ability to play in Russia's backyard. The announcement on Oct. 7 that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will visit Poland, Czech Republic and Romania from Oct. 20-24 was the opening salvo of the latest U.S. offensive. This was followed by Vershbow's statement on Oct. 9 that the United States would consider adding Ukraine to its BMD network and that it would look to expand its military cooperation with Georgia and Ukraine. The latest announcement from Poland suggests that the United States will use Vershbow — a former ambassador to Russia who is well versed on former Soviet Union matters and an important player in the U.S. defense establishment — as a prime tool to keep Russia on its toes in the ongoing confrontation over Iran. The Patriots in Poland, along with support of Ukraine and Georgia militarily, are U.S. proof to Russia that Washington has plenty of options to threaten Russia in its periphery.