Thursday, January 21, 2010

Poland And Russia Up Military Ante

Tensions between Russia and Poland have clicked up in the past few days with the two states eying nervously the military announcements of the other.  Warsaw has decided where it will place U.S. Patriot missiles, that just happens to be close to Russia's enclave of Kaliningrad.  Moscow has fired back, announcing plans to beef up its Baltic fleet, but denied it had anything to do with Warsaw's announcement, then denied the whole thing!    

Poland got things started on Wednesday when Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich announced the Patriot surface-to-air missiles would be based in northern town of Morag.  That's just 100 kilometers from the border with Kaliningrad. 

Klich said the choice of Morag had no "political or strategic meaning."

A Polish Defense Ministry spokesman voiced the thinking behind the choice, saying Morag was ideal because it could accommodate all the infrastructure and technology that will be required with the missiles. 

The battery will be manned by some 100 U.S. soldiers and will house between four and eight missiles.  Work at the site is set to begin in April and the Poles expect prep work to take two months.  

As the Informant has reported, Washington and Warsaw signed a deal in November that paves the way for the deployment of the Patriot missiles in Poland. 

One day later, Moscow responded, although it denied it was responding.

An unnamed senior Russian naval official stirred the pot.

RIA quoted an unnamed senior navy official as saying that given plans to install Patriot missile batteries in Poland over the next five to seven years, "there may be significant changes in the approach to defining the tasks and the military capabilities of the Baltic Fleet."

The surface ship, submarine and airborne elements of the Baltic Fleet would all be strengthened, he told RIA.

However, the Russian Defense Ministry later denied these reports. 
Maybe the Russian naval officer got the go-ahead to scare the heebie-jeebies out of the Poles.  If so, Polish officials, at least if their public statements are to be believed, said it didn't work. 
A high-ranking source in Poland's Foreign Ministry told Reuters Warsaw was not overly concerned by the initial reports.

"Let's stay calm. Such strengthening, even if it becomes true, is no direct threat to Poland," the source told Reuters.

"The Russians have known about the Patriots for at least two years. So there is no reason to react to unofficial comments."

On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he couldn't comprehend the need "to create the impression as if Poland is bracing itself against Russia."

As the Informant has reported, relations between Warsaw and Moscow have been on a southward slide for some time now, although one could pinpoint the start when Poland was included along with the Czech Republic in U.S. plans to build a anti-missile "defense" shield.

Amidst much fanfare, Barrack Obama announced late last year that he was scrapping both these elements and going with a slimmed down version of missile defense. 

Russophobes in Prague and Warsaw cried that Obama was trying to placate the Russian bear in order to "reset" relations with the Kremlin.

However, Obama may not be the big peacenik the Nobel awards committee and other adoring masses think he is. 

Not only is Poland now slated for a Patriot anti-missile battery, but the Czech Republic could get one, too.

Even the pro-shield folks at the Washington-based lobby, Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance admit the missile battery is aimed at Russia and not a theoretical strike from Iran. 

Contrary to the Administration's decision, the President's new missile defense plan and its sensitivity to Russia to withdraw long-range ballistic missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend Europe and the United States from Iran, this decision is directly providing Poland a capability with deployed U.S. troops to defend Polish military against Russia with no intention of the future threat from Iran to Europe. (Bold added)

MDAA also asks the logical that arming Poland with Patriots sends Moscow a not too friendly message.

This decision would also seem to be against the Administration's goodwill and intention to move forward with Russia on the START Follow-On Treaty to reduce strategic nuclear weapons and delivery platforms.

And Rick Rozoff at STOP NATO argues Washington's recalibrated missile defense plans are even grander than earlier ones.  Back in September, Rozoff notes Washington was mulling shifting its sites in Poland and the Czech Republic and Poland to Israel, Turkey and the Balkans. 

So the surfacing of reports that the U.S. may base missile shield facilities south and east of the Czech Republic and Poland is more likely indicative of yet another plan to expand the global system - already in place and being worked on in Alaska, Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Norway, Britain, Greenland and Israel -into areas previously off limits to such deployments and not necessarily an abandonment of American missile and troop deployments in Poland and a missile radar site in the Czech Republic.

In confirmation of this scenario, U.S. National Security Adviser and former U.S. European Command and NATO top military chief James Jones told Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski on September 1 "The United States is assuring Poland that it has not made a decision on where to deploy a European missile defense system but will keep Warsaw informed," and pledged "the United States' firm and unwavering commitment to Poland's security and defense."

Rozoff argues Washington is plotting to put in place an "international interceptor missile system" in the pursuit of the military man's wet dream of "winnable" war against major powers like Russia and China.  

The standoff with Poland is just one piece of a larger, more lethal calculation.
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