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Polish missile base re-ignites tension with Russia

Poland's recently announced plans to station a missile battery close to the Russian border have confused Russia's top foreign policy official, a day after Russia denied it would build up its defenses on the Baltic coast.

A Patriot anti-aircraft missile is launched from a US base in Greece in 2002

The Patriot missiles will be based near the border with Russia

Russia's Foreign Minister said Friday he "doesn't understand" recently announced plans to station a small collection of U.S. Patriot missiles less than 100 miles from Poland's border with Russian exclave Kaliningrad.

Sergei Lavrov said the deployment of the missiles, along with about 100 American soldiers who will be stationed with them, gives "the impression as if Poland is bracing itself against Russia."

The Polish Defense Ministry said Wednesday that the coastal town of Morag would host four to eight missiles that will arrive in April. Ministry spokesman Janusz Sejmej told the German news agency DPA that Morag, which is 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Russian border, was selected as a base because it had suitable buildings, equipment and accommodation for the soldiers that come with the battery.

No plans to respond in kind

On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry made an announcement of its own - to deny reports that it would be bulking up its Baltic sea fleet in response to the missile deployment.

"Alleged plans to expand the strength of vessels, submarines, and aviation of the Baltic fleet in connection with the planned deployment of U.S. Patriot missiles near Russian borders do not correspond with reality," a senior defense ministry official told Reuters.

The official was responding to statements by an unnamed naval official quoted by Russia's state news agency, RIA, who reported that the tasks and capabilities of the country's fleet might undergo "significant changes" because of Poland's missiles.

plans of US missile bases in Poland

Original US plans to base missiles in Poland caused tension with Russia

The current missile deployment is actually a scaled-back version of one originally promised by former U.S. President George W. Bush, who had envisioned long-range missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. That plan had irritated Moscow, who said the real target was not Iran, but Russia. It had threatened to put its own missiles in Kaliningrad, facing the rest of Europe.

But the administration of current president Barack Obama abandoned Bush's missile shield plan in favor of a short-and-medium-range system in Poland that could intercept incoming threats.

Editor: Rob Turner

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