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First U.S. Patriot Missile Battery In Poland

May. 24, 2010 - 03:45AM   |  
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE   |   Comments
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WARSAW, Poland - A battery of U.S. surface-to-air Patriot-type missiles arrived May 23 at a Polish military base, the first such deployment on Polish soil, the U.S. embassy in Warsaw said May 24.

"An American Patriot Air and Missile Defense Battery arrived on Sunday at Morag, home of the 16th Mechanized Battalion of the Polish Land Forces, located in north-east Poland," said a statement published on the embassy's website.

"The U.S. 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery, also known as the Rough Riders, will unload 37 train cars of equipment on Monday," it said.

About 100-150 U.S. troops based in Kaiserslautern, Germany, are to service the battery in Poland and train Polish soldiers to operate it, the statement said.

Polish officials are to unveil the Patriots, which are designed to intercept incoming surface-to-surface missiles, on May 26, according to a Polish defense ministry statement.

The Polish military base at Morag, in the Mazurian Lakes region, is about 150 miles north of Warsaw and just 40 miles from the border with Russia's Kaliningrad territory.

In February, Poland ratified the so-called SOFA deal on the stationing on its soil of U.S. troops who will crew the Patriot battery and train Polish soldiers to use the system.

Poland has repeatedly insisted that the base close to Kaliningrad was not chosen for political or strategic reasons, but simply because it already has good infrastructure.

In September 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama scrapped a plan agreed to a year earlier by his predecessor George W. Bush to install a controversial anti-missile shield system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Under that now-shelved deal, the U.S. also pledged to help upgrade Poland's national air defenses with Patriot missiles and has stuck to that part of the agreement.

The anti-missile shield plan had enraged Russia, which dubbed it a menace to its security on its very doorstep, although Washington insisted it was meant to ward off a potential long-range missile threat from Iran.

Warsaw and Prague were part of Moscow's Soviet-era sphere of control, but became solid U.S. allies after breaking from the crumbling communist bloc in 1989, and joined NATO in 1999.

The Obama administration has since come up with a new plan aimed at parrying short- and medium-range missile attacks.

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