Polish President Lech Kaczynski has ratified the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the US, laying out the conditions for the deployment of US troops on Polish soil.
According to the agreement, about 100 American soldiers will service up to eight US Patriot missile launchers that are to be integrated into Poland’s national security system. Once American soldiers are based in Poland, they will be subject to Polish law.
The SOFA agreement also regulates the rules by which American transport can enter Poland and the principles of compensation to Polish citizens if any harm is caused to them by the actions of American troops. A temporary US base is to start operations at the end of March–beginning of April this year, and in 2012 it is to become permanent.
Poland and the US signed the deal in December last year in Warsaw. Under the deal, it was initially planned that the troops would be based near the Polish capital, but in late January Poland said that it will deploy a battery of US Patriot missiles in the town of Morag, which is only 100 kilometers from the Russian border. The Polish administration justified this move by saying that the town of Morag has the most suitable conditions for allocating American troops and technical equipment.
According to the Polish Defense Minister, Bogdan Klich, first Poland will get Patriot missiles for training purposes to help Polish troops learn how to use them, and later they will receive real combat missiles.
Patriot theater air defense systems are designed to counter tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft. Initially, they were part of the US-Polish missile shield deal, but when Barrack Obama scrapped plans to place the US Anitballistic Missile Defense System in Poland, Warsaw insisted on the Patriot missile deployment, despite the change in US plans.
Moscow has always been critical of the US-Polish agreement to deploy Patriot Missiles near its border, but Polish Defense Minister Klich says that there is nothing for Moscow to be concerned about.
Viktor Mizin, deputy director of the Institute for International Studies at the Moscow State University of International relations, told RT that from a military point of view, Patriot missiles neither pose a real threat to Russia’s security, nor are needed for Poland’s defense system. In his view, it’s merely a political move by Poland, designed once again to annoy Russia, and shows that Poland doesn’t want to normalize its relations with Russia.
“Poland’s former Defense Minister Boris Sekorski and the Polish President himself earlier admitted that they are not concerned about the threats from Iran, but they are interested in establishing an ‘American umbrella’ above Poland, thus trying to show that they see Russia as an aggressor and a threat to Poland”, says Viktor Mizin.
He also thinks that the timing of this agreement is not a coincidence, given the current attempts by Poland to “rewrite history”. In 2010 it will be 65 years since the end of World War II, 90 years since the victory of Polish troops over the Soviet Army near Warsaw and 70 years since the execution of Polish officers in Katyn. These dates could only provoke anti-Russian sentiments in Polish society ahead of the presidential elections in the country in autumn this year.
Russia, meanwhile, may be justified in feeling besieged by several countries in Eastern Europe. Thus, Romanian Defense Minister Teodor Baconschi stated today that his country is currently holding talks with the US on the deployment of 20 interceptor missiles on Romanian territory as part of the American missile defense system. “The talks will be in progress within the next 1.5 years. It’s planned to consider the issue of the deployment of 20 interceptor systems in various areas of the country”, said Baconschi. “We are open for negotiations on the creation of the collective defense mechanism”, added the Romanian Defense Minister, expressing hope that the missile defense system will “form the basis in ensuring the general antimissile defense in which all NATO countries will take part”.
There have been reports as well that Bulgaria could follow a similar path.
Olga Masalkova, RT