Friday, May 13, 2011

American F-16 Fighter Jets To Poland?

U.S. Air Force F-16C Block 40 over Iraq, 2008Image via WikipediaAmerica's military footprint could become more robust soon in eastern Europe, further unbalancing the military balance of power with Russia, and sure to more than irritate Moscow.  According to Polish media, the U.S. military could station more than a dozen F-16 warplanes on Polish soil, a first for the United States in former Warsaw Pact territory.  The agreement, according to the Poles, should be sealed when U.S. President Barack Obama visits Poland on May 27-28.  Moscow has threatened to take counter-measures if the Americans go through with the plan. 
Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich gave some details on May 9 to the Polish PAP news agency.

"I can confirm that at the moment we are holding talks with the Americans on the topic of a detailed agreement that will govern on what basis the Air Detachment -- the detachment that will permanently service the F-16 fighter jets and Hercules crews and land personnel periodically visiting Poland -- will be stationed on our territory."  

According to Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza, the U.S. plans to transfer the F-16 base in Aviano in Italy to the Lask air field in central Poland.


Klich said last year that he hoped the F-16 rotations would begin in 2013.

Talks on the agreement apparently gained traction on December 8, 2010 when Obama and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski met in Washington.

This would not be the first U.S. military deployment on Polish soil.

As the Informant reported, last May the U.S. started unpacking box load cars of equipment for a battery of Patriot missiles and, in a groundbreaking move, equipment to base up to a 100 U.S. soldiers at a airbase in Morag, Poland, just 60 kilometers west of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

It was touted as a tutorial task: the Americans would stay in Poland for two years to teach their Polish counterparts how to handle the deadly weapons.  

But even U.S. officials admitted the significance of the move.  

Andrew Paul, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy, said the Patriot garrison involves a longer time commitment than anything before, and marks "the first continuing presence," of American soldiers and equipment in Poland.

Commenting on the selection of Morag as the deployment site for the Patriots, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he couldn't comprehend the need "to create the impression as if Poland is bracing itself against Russia."

The F-16 deal has not been the only good bit of news for the Pentagon out of Eastern Europe. 

Washington been a busy time for the Americans on the military front.  Just days before the Polish reports on the F-16s, the U.S. announced it would be stationing missile interceptors in Romania.

The news was announced May 3 in Bucharest after talks between U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher and Romanian President Traian Basescu who later made a national TV address, in which he added the obligatory yet meaningless statement that the future missile defense shield -- ostensibly aimed at missiles raining down on Europe from 'rogue' regimes like Iran and even more laughably unbelievable North Korea -- was not aimed at Russia, which in fact it is. 

The two officials said that the interceptor site will be built at the Daveselu Air Base near the Bulgarian border. The base will host from 200 to 500 US military servicemen, but the base will remain under Romanian military command. Ellen Tauscher has earlier said that the interceptors would be operational as planned by 2015.  

Russia was obviously less than overjoyed with the latest U.S. military foray into its former sphere of influence.  

Russia either wants to play a part in building a European missile shield, or failing that, a binding guarantee that a Western shield would not target its missiles. 

According to Russia Today:

Russia warned that it would closely follow the developments because the planned US system “may pose risks for Russian strategic nuclear deterrence forces in the future.” Earlier, the Russian leadership had said it would have to take “adequate measures” if the US and NATO choose to build the European missile defense shield without Moscow’s participation.

On May 6 in St. Petersburg, General Nikolai Makarov expressed Russian concerns over U.S. missile shield plans to Admiral Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officers, but other than empty words no breakthrough was expected nor made.  

All the while, the U.S. military vice grows tighter around Russia.


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