The Polish push to military independence can be seen
through the accelerated missile shield program.
WORLD NEWS- Analysis- William Collier- After the inauguration of President Obama, the US withdrew plans to deploy a missile shield for Europe. This in agreement with Russia. But the Poles, who were supposed to host key elements of the system, have since then proceeded with their plans to deploy a new anti-air and missile shield of their own.
Owing to a robust and growing economy, spurred on by a pro growth economic policy, the Poles have been investing billions in upgrading their military capability. Deployments overseas in support of NATO operations have given their forces experience and have shown the areas of lack. Overall, it is believed the Poles are investing $5 billion in just the anti-missile element new system, within a total increased outlay of $40 billion for their planned rapid upgrading of their military. Currently, the poles have a fixed budget of just under 2% of their gross domestic product for their military. This may be increased shortly as the Poles seem convinced that neither the US nor other NATO allies see the threat of Russian expansionism as clearly as they believe they do.
The final phases of their bidding process for providers of their components of a three-tiered anti-air and anti-missile system are being completed, but the process is now being sped up. Funding is increasing beyond the $5 billion slated for this part of the system. The final two contenders for this project include a consortium of Thales Group, MBDA Missile Systems and the Raytheon Company (Raytheon makes the Patriot system). The total system, which includes missile defense (tier 3), national air defense (tier 2) and local air defense (tier 1) will cost around $13 billion. The Tier 2 system will be capable of shooting down aircraft and cruise missiles, a major new capability, operating 12 batteries. A top competitor is Raytheon’s NASAMS II, a missile system developed with Norway’s Kongsberg Defense. NASAMS stands for “Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System”. NASAMS I was first deployed in 1998, making this a proven system.
Back in March of 2014, Jacek Sonta, spokesman for the Polish Ministry of Defense, told Reuters, “The issues related with Poland’s air defense will be accelerated. Poland plans to choose the best offer for its missile defense in the next few weeks.” This was pushed despite pressure from Washington and Berlin to “not increase tensions”, which they believe Poland’s sped up process would do. The Poles rejected this out of hand citing their right to self-defense and have proceeded rapidly.
Action was spurred on as the Russians began what the Poles see as an expansionist policy, beginning with Russia’s war on Georgia and now with Russian war on the Ukraine. While the Poles are calling for more forward deployment of NATO forces in the former Warsaw Pact countries and the Baltic, Germany and France have resisted such proposals. And so the Poles have come to the conclusion that they must rapidly and dramatically invest in improving their own military.
This requires the almost wholesale replacement of Soviet era equipment and Russian technology in general.
Their missile shield will be as capable as what the Americans would have deployed in Poland, only it will be under total Polish control. Because NATO is not cooperating directly, the new system will also be out of NATO jurisdiction. It is possible that some NATO partners, especially Germany and Italy, will share resources for joint development as those two nations also seek their own missile defense shields.
The significance of all of this is that, if deployed, these systems would actually dramatically reduce the threat of a nuclear war and they would do so without the need for American protection. By withdrawing from missile defense in Europe, the US has ensured a decline in its own influence in Europe. As Poland and other NATO nations increase their defense budgets and capabilities, even while the US military is shrinking in size and investment, it is probable that within 10 to 20 years there will be no real need for American guarantees of security by European nations.
The Polish effort to deploy their own missile shield is serious, well-funded, multi-tiered, and robust. While initial deployment was slated for 2018, plans are under way to accelerate that “as quickly as possible.” The complete system was not slated to be finished until 2022, but this has also been accelerated dramatically.
This will likely mean the use of a modified Patriot system for their first stage of deployment. What is envisioned is a system with better radar and cheaper missiles (a French missile is envisioned). As both the core system and the new components are proven and available “off the shelf”, the Poles could deploy their first batteries for missile defense “within 18 months”, although some want to move even faster than that.
As one Polish officer noted, “every step the Russians take towards the Ukraine only pushes us to speed up the process of building up our forces.” This could become a serious national effort that would transform Poland into a major regional power virtually overnight.