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21 Jan, 2010 05:33

Poland to place American missiles at Russian border

The site chosen by Poland’s defense ministry for the deployment of the US “Patriot” air defense system is only 100 km from the Russian border, according to a report in Polish media.

The information initially published in Polish political daily Gazeta Wyborcza was later confirmed by Polish officials.

The city of Morag in northern Poland will be used to host the battery of Patriot missiles, which means they will be located very close to Russia’s enclave region of Kaliningrad.

The initial plans were to place the air defense unit near capital Warsaw, but the Polish military chose Morag instead. They assure that the decision was not influenced by military strategy but rather due to the economy and convenience. “In Morag, we offer the best conditions for US troops and the best technical facilities for the equipment,” said Defense Minister Bogdan Klich.

The battery will consist of eight launchers and will be manned by around 100 US soldiers. The exact date of the arrival of American troops and weapons to Poland is not yet fixed. The newspaper says it is expected to be in April.

In 2008, Warsaw convinced Washington to deploy Patriot missiles in its territory as part of an agreement to host elements of the planned antiballistic missile system in Eastern Europe. The Bush-era plans have been downsized by the Obama administration, but the Patriot deal remains in force.

At the height of tension between Russia and the US over the ABM shield President Medvedev announced that, if the system is built, Moscow will deploy Iskander short-range missiles in the Kaliningrad region to maintain strategic balance. This was never done, however, and after the antimissile system plans were overhauled, Russia said it no longer saw any need to move its Iskander missiles.

Moscow has not yet commented on the latest move, but as military journalist Viktor Litovkin says, the Patriot missiles present no real danger to Russia's security.

“The cancellation of Bush’s plan to place an anti-ballistic missile system was a warm approach to improve relations between the countries,” Litovkin said. “The current establishment of the Patriot defense system is considered compensation to Poland for the canceled deal, as well as a way to cure Polish phobias. Now it is clear who Poland is afraid of – but it is not clear why. The Patriot defense system doesn't represent any threat to Russia.”

Whereas, political analyst Vladimir Kozin says the decision deals a direct blow to Russia’s strategic arms plans.

This is specifically alarming at the time when we are approaching the signing of the START treaty.”

Kozin also believes the “unfriendly gesture” could be just the first step on the part of the US, with more antiballistic missiles to follow.