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May 21, 2010 | 17:50 GMT

3 mins read

U.S., Poland: Patriot Missiles Arriving in Russia's Back Yard

KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images
A battery of Patriot missiles from the United States will arrive in Poland on May 24, Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich announced May 21, confirming multiple reports that have circulated for months about the long-awaited delivery. An advance guard of more than 100 U.S. soldiers have already arrived in Morag, where the Patriots will be stationed — conveniently located 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the border with the Russian territory of Kaliningrad. The United States had agreed to deploy the Patriot missiles to Poland after backing out of its plan to station ballistic missile defense (BMD) system components in the country in 2009. It had been unclear when exactly the United States planned on fulfilling its agreement to send the Patriots to Poland, with dates as early as autumn 2009 mentioned. In Moscow's mind, neither plan is desirable because each puts the United States too close for Russia's comfort. In a way, the Patriot missiles are a greater threat to Russian interests in the region than BMD because they constitute a high-tech operational defense for Poland. The delivery is also a clear signal from Washington to Warsaw that it has not abandoned Poland. Poland has been the target of a well-organized charm offensive by Russia meant to draw Poland away from being so staunchly pro-U.S. From energy deals to consolation following the plane crash that killed the Polish president and many members of the government, Moscow has been taking advantage of the United States' distraction in the Islamic world in order to woo Warsaw. The delivery of the Patriots is Washington's answer to Moscow's advances. The missile delivery comes shortly after the United States announced it had struck a deal with Russia and China over a new draft of sanctions against Iran — something Moscow has not explicitly acknowledged agreeing to. There is also disagreement on whether this new draft of sanctions will prevent Russia — should it be on board — from delivering the contentious S-300 missile system to Iran. The delivery of the Patriots to Poland could push Russia to commit further to its support for Iran. The Patriots delivery will also complicate an upcoming meeting between Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama in June, where topics on the agenda include everything from the Patriot missiles to Iran. There had been rumors in Moscow that Russia was considering revamping its foreign policy doctrine before the meeting to include a more U.S.-friendly stance — something that could now be reconsidered.

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