WASHINGTON — The secretary of state at Poland’s Ministry of National Defence has threatened to break off an impending deal with the U.S. government to buy Patriot air-and-missile defense systems if certain requirements for technology transfers are not met, according to a letter sent July 15 to the director of the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
Then the Polish government attempted to temper the letter in an Aug. 1 posting on the ministry’s website after the letter went public.
The letter was sent just over a week after a memorandum was signed by Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz and DSCA Director Vice Adm. Joseph Rixey that set up a two-phased plan to buy Patriot. The memo signing directly followed a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump to Poland where he praised Poland for wanting to buy Patriot.
The memo made political headway but is seen as no closer to minting an actual deal than it was earlier this year when the country said it would buy Patriot by year’s end.
Poland and the U.S. government have been working through negotiations regarding what is in the realm of the possible for the Wisla program. The country wants a good deal of technology transfer, and it has made several unique requests that have slowed the possible purchase of the Patriot systems, asking for the first two of eight batteries to have Northrop Grumman’s not-yet-fielded Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS, included by 2019 and the following six Patriots to have a 360-degree radar, which Patriot also currently does not have.
The U.S. Army won’t be fielding IBCS itself until likely 2022.
By June, Poland and the U.S. seemed to have hit a roadblock due to technology transfer issues and delivery timeline hurdles.
The July 15 letter indicates negotiations could still be rocky between the U.S. and Poland despite the signing of the memo in July that created a road map for the way forward.
The letter outlines that the first step in an agreement would allow for partial transfer of technology for IBCS and PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement interceptors as well as launchers. In a second phase of the agreement, implementation of 12 currently classified critical offset elements or technologies will be agreed upon as well as other technologies “concerning” the active electronically scanned array gallium nitride radar technology production line and SkyCeptor missiles. Poland wants to build the missiles in-country.
“The transfer of 12 technologies indicated within the offset as necessary, in line with Polish legal regulations, has a fundamental impact on the Government of Poland signing the Letter of Offer and Acceptance. Failure to meet these provisions will result in the offset offer being rejected, which will then result in terminating the process for the procurement of the Wisla Patriot program,” the letter states.
The preceding quote was printed in bold in the letter.
Marek Swierczynski, an analyst for security affairs at Polityka Insight, who first obtained and reported the letter, stated that it undermined the Polish defense minister‘s “assertion that the US government had agreed to transfer all technologies necessary to the Patriot-based Wisla system.”
Swierczynski also noted the letter confirmed rumors that the memo announced on July 6 was “a political document with no direct link to formal negotiations.”
The letter also asks the U.S. to expedite certain agreement forms to include a technical assistance agreement and a manufacturing license agreement to be submitted in advance of offset negotiations, which is necessary according to Polish law, but would divert from typical procedures.
Swierczynski added that the letter seemed a risky negotiating tactic because the U.S. government does not guarantee offsets established in separate contracts with U.S. industry and has to protect classified military technology. “Placing such high odds with regard to the future of the contract shows that [the Ministry of Defence] adopted a ‘make it or break it’ tactics. This might result in the cancellation of Poland’s important modernisation programme so far,” he wrote.
Following the publication of Swierczynski’s analysis on July 31, Poland’s MoD issued a statement on its website addressing Polityka’s article in what seems to be an attempt to soften how negotiations were depicted in the letter.
“The Polish side declares that it will continue the negotiations in the spirit of mutual understanding and very good atmosphere, as demonstrated by, for instance, the U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to Poland and the signing of the memorandum at the government level.”
The posting accused Polityka, as well as the former deputy defense minister under the previous administration, of using “selective excerpts” from “internal communications between the governments of Poland and the U.S.” in an attempt to damage “the exceptionally good relationships between our countries.”
The conflicting tones taken in the letter and the posting on the MoD website have some following the evolution of Poland’s missile defense deal with the U.S. confused as to possible motivations.
But a Raytheon’s statement sent July 31 to Defense News indicates nothing has changed in the negotiation process, at least from the company’s perspective: “Raytheon is supporting both the US and Polish governments in the ongoing WISLA negotiations. We are confident that Poland’s acquisition of Patriot will enable the Polish military to defend Poland’s sovereignty, while at the same time addressing Poland’s requirements for technology transfer and industrial participation.”
It is the same statement issued when the memorandum was signed last month.
According to Swierczynski, in a follow-up piece on Aug. 1, there are a variety of scenarios that could play out as the U.S. government considers Poland’s demands, the most likely being “stalled negotiations and delayed decisions.”
The U.S., he said, may want more time to analyze the demands, especially while Trump continues to staff appointments within the Defense Department. And PGZ, a state-owned defense group in Poland, is being reorganized, and that would need to be completed in order to understand what role PGZ can and will play in the Wisla program.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.