White House intensifies military buildup in Poland

Immediately on the heels of reports in the Guardian and other Western news media that the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization has crafted a strategy to intervene with nine army divisions in the Baltic Sea area, President Barack Obama met with his Polish counterpart Bronislaw Komorowski at the White House and confirmed plans to increase U.S. military hardware and troops in the latter’s country.

The two heads of state agreed on expanding bilateral military relations "in the spirit of the 2008 U.S.-Polish Declaration on Strategic Cooperation," [1] including the stationing of 16 U.S. F-16 jet fighters and four C-130 Hercules military transport planes on Polish air bases beginning in 2013.

The U.S. sold Poland 48 of the multirole warplanes earlier in the decade, delivering them between 2006-2008, and last month provided the third of five Hercules aircraft to the Polish military. According to a news agency report on the most recent delivery: "The C-130 aircraft are Poland’s biggest transport planes. Polish crews used the planes to fly to Spain, Georgia, Iraq and Afghanistan." [2]

The American F-16s and C-130s will be based in Poland to join those sold to the nation and the U.S. fighters will participate in joint air combat exercises with their Polish opposite numbers.

U.S. F-15 jet fighters are currently completing a four-month rotation at the Lithuanian Air Force base at Siauliai for NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission. The F-15 Eagle is "a twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter designed to gain and maintain air superiority in aerial combat. It is considered among the most successful modern fighters with over 100 aerial combat victories with no losses in dogfights." [3]

In addition to the American and Polish presidents confirming the above deployments, coming as they do after the stationing of U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 anti-ballistic missiles and 100 troops to Morag, Poland – half an hour’s drive from the Russian border – in May of this year, Obama also confirmed an even more menacing development: The Pentagon will forge ahead with basing Standard Missile-3 (SM-3s) interceptors in Poland, part of what the administration refers to as the Aegis Ashore program to adapt ship-based SM-3s for use on land. However, Washington will almost certainly add SM-3-equipped Aegis class warships to the mix with a continuous rotation in the Baltic Sea.

Obama "confirmed the commitment of the United States to implement the Phased Adaptive Approach to European missile defense, including basing land-based SM-3 interceptors in Poland as part of this program in the 2018 time frame, and expressed his gratitude for the commitment by the government of Poland to host this system." [4]

The White House also committed to assigning American 800 troops to Polish command in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province and supplying 20 mine-resistant armored vehicles to Polish forces serving with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

The following day President Komorowski met with former U.S. national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

The SM-3 has a standard range of 300 miles (500 kilometers), but the SM-3 Block II variant is enhanced for extended range and velocity. On September 17, 2009 Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced plans to abandon the George W. Bush administration project to base ten ground-based midcourse interceptor missiles of the sort based in Alaska and California in silos in Redzikowo, Poland in favor of a "smarter, stronger and swifter" deployment of a graduated, layered interceptor missile system in Eastern Europe from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

Seven months ago the first phase – the installation of a U.S. advanced Patriot missile battery – was effected in eastern Poland.

Much as with the earlier, now discarded, ground-based midcourse missile plan, Washington and its NATO allies claim that PAC-3 and SM-3 deployments are in response to non-existent or at any rate far-fetched threats of long-range missile attacks by so-called rogue states: Iran, Syria and North Korea. Thirty countries in total according to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who adamantly refuses to list the putative villains.

Iran does not possess, is not in the process of acquiring and is not capable of developing intercontinental ballistic missiles able to be launched over the Arctic Ocean to the U.S., so SM-3s in Poland with a current range of 300 miles cannot "protect" North America and Europe from an alleged Iranian missile threat. The distance between the capitals of Iran and Poland is almost 2,500 miles, so any intercept of an Iranian missile by an American SM-3 would have to occur over Ukraine. (And possibly Belarus. If the range of SM-3s in Poland were to be extended, and with the same interceptors in Romania, the countries of the South Caucasus and Russia’s North Caucasus could suffer fallout even if in theory debris is to be burned during reentry.)

SM-3 and Patriot anti-ballistic missiles are what the Pentagon and its Missile Defense Agency refer to as kinetic – "hit-to-kill" – weapons that officially are not equipped with an explosive warhead and that destroy an incoming missile on contact. The USS Lake Erie guided missile cruiser launched an SM-3 into the exoatmosphere over the Pacific Ocean on February 21, 2008 to destroy an American satellite with a kinetic warhead.

However, as Washington acknowledges that North Korea has nuclear weapons and accuses Iran of pursuing them, a missile collision involving a nuclear warhead over the territory of a third nation is an inevitable danger entailed by U.S. and NATO missile shield deployments.

The U.S. cannot pretend that Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles in Poland are in any manner aimed toward and at any nation other than Russia. The American missiles and troops in the Baltic Sea city of Morag are near the border of Russia’s Kaliningrad district where the Interfax news agency revealed on December 7 that, in addition to NATO recently elaborating plans to intervene against Russia on behalf of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the military bloc’s "plans to surround and crush Russia’s military forces in the Kaliningrad region (the country’s westernmost region) were drawn up at least five years ago." [5]

A recent analysis in the Russian press disclosed that this May’s missile deployment in Poland has been followed by the decision at the NATO summit in Lisbon to consolidate an interceptor missile system for all of Europe under control of NATO nominally but the U.S. practically: "The Patriots being integrated into the US missile shield, the issue clearly acquires a strategic dimension." [6]

Earlier this week Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich stated, "The American presence on our territory constitutes an additional guarantee, an additional assurance that we are in an alliance where our allies would come to our aid if the situation warranted." He also confirmed that "in 2013 Poland and the three Baltic states would host, in an exercise of the NATO Response Force (NRF), a multinational contingent of about 25,000 troops available for rapid deployment in crisis management, stabilization or collective defense." [7]

Weeks before Klich asserted that "Poland accepts the U.S. proposal of hosting rotating F-16 and Hercules aircraft and their crews" and disclosed "plans for joint drills with the U.S." [8]

The U.S. government characterized the Obama-Komorowski meeting on December 8 as being conducted within the framework of the U.S.-Polish Declaration on Strategic Cooperation, as seen above.

The text of the declaration includes these provisions:

"We believe that the development of durable and long-term strategic cooperation will increase the security of the United States and Poland, as well as the security of the North Atlantic area. The cornerstone of the U.S.-Poland security relationship is the solidarity embodied in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which provides that an armed attack against one NATO country shall be considered an armed attack against them all. The United States and Poland recognize the importance of enhancing their individual and collective national security by working within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)…."

"Within the context of, and consistent with, both the North Atlantic Treaty and the U.S.-Poland strategic partnership, the United States is committed to the security of Poland and of any U.S. facilities located on the territory of the Republic of Poland. The United States and Poland will work together to counter emerging military or non-military threats posed by third parties or to minimize the effects of such threats. The increased strategic cooperation described herein would enhance the security of the United States and Poland."

"Missile defenses, including an interceptor base in Poland, provide a necessary and critical capability that can be used to defend both nations, and other NATO Allies, from long-range missile threats, thus enhancing the security of the United States, Poland, and the North Atlantic area."

"Cooperation on missile defense strengthens the strategic partnership between the United States and Poland."

"The United States and Poland plan to conclude a number of bilateral agreements that are intended to enhance defense and security cooperation between the United States and Poland."

"In pursuit of this shared vision of broader and deeper U.S.-Poland strategic cooperation, the United States and Poland decided that the Strategic Cooperation Consultative Group (SCCG) will serve as the primary mechanism for furthering the U.S.-Poland strategic relationship. The SCCG will be composed of senior representatives from the Department of State and Department of Defense in the United States, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense in Poland. The SCCG will meet regularly or upon the request of the United States or Poland and may establish working groups such as the High-Level Defense Group (HLDG). The SCCG complements the work being done in other areas, including the existing U.S.-Poland Strategic Dialogue and Joint Staff Talks."

Washington also pledged to "assist Poland in transforming and modernizing its Armed Forces," "provide defense equipment and related materials…with the purpose of improving the interoperability, sustainability, and deployability of Poland’s Armed Forces," and "expand air and missile defense cooperation." [9]

A recent news story on the website of U.S. Air Forces in Europe reported on a joint exercise with forces from the U.S., Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland for "the coordination and training of [Joint Terminal Air Controllers] and Polish F-16 close air support missions during Operation Sabre Strike 11 at Adazi Training Aria, Latvia."

The purpose of the exercise was to "continue mutual support for the fight in Afghanistan and demonstrate previous successful NATO coordination in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"The [U.S.] 100th ARW [Air Refueling Wing] provided fuel to the Polish F-16s, which allowed the fighters to conduct bomb and strafing runs as coordinated by the NATO JTAC trainees and instructors. This marked the first time that live munitions were dropped in Latvia since their separation from Russia in 1992." [10]

On December 7 Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine signed an agreement on the formation of a trilateral Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian Brigade, LITPOLUKRBRIG. The unit is being created "for deployment to operations of international organisations." [11] That is, NATO and the European Union.

Two days later Secretary General Rasmussen met with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at NATO Headquarters in Brussels "to discuss the way forward on the results of the successful Lisbon Summit last November."

Rasmussen applauded the troop contribution of diminutive Estonia (with a population of 1.3 million) for NATO’s war in Afghanistan. The NATO chief and Estonian president "welcomed the fact that the New Strategic Concept reinforces NATO’s commitment to collective defence as a core task for the Alliance. The Secretary General reiterated that NATO’s ongoing air policing mission for the Baltic states is a visible proof of Allied commitment to collective defence."

Rasmussen added, "The NATO Cyber Security Centre of Excellence in Estonia will play a key role in building up our collective defences on this 21st century battle-front." [12]

As for a closer relationship between NATO and Russia as indicated by the NATO-Russia Council meeting during the second day of the NATO summit in Portugal last month, what the government-owned Voice of Russia cited President Dmitry Medvedev describing as a "kindhearted partnership" in which "Russia sees NATO as a partner, rather than a threat" [13], a German news source reported:

"Experts believe that, even if Russia is left out and reacts belligerently, the missile shield will still go ahead with European powerhouses like Germany pushing the US and NATO to commit to securing the continent from external threats." [14]

Employing NATO as mechanism and intermediary as needed, Washington is establishing a growing and permanent military presence in Poland that has far less to do with protecting the nation from imaginary Russian threats than with defying Russia on its own doorstep and laying the groundwork for confrontation between the world’s two main nuclear powers.


[1]. Xinhua News Agency, December 9, 2010

[2]. Xinhua News Agency, November 17, 2010

[3]. Wikipedia

[4]. America.gov, December 8, 2010

[5]. Interfax/RT, December 7, 2010

[6]. Yuri Rubtsov, Arms Race: Russia Ready to Pay the Price, Russian Information Agency Novosti, December 9, 2010

[7]. Agence France-Presse, December 9, 2010

[8]. Stars and Stripes, December 8, 2010

[9]. U.S. Department of State, August 20, 2008

[10]. U.S. Air Forces in Europe, December 9, 2010

[11]. Defence Professionals, December 9, 2010

[12]. North Atlantic Treaty Organization, December 9, 2010

[13]. Voice of Russia, December 6, 2010

[14]. Deutsche Welle, December 9, 2010