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Poland to accept German missiles after spat over location

December 7, 2022

When Berlin offered to send Warsaw a Patriot missile defense system, Poland said Germany should send it to Ukraine instead — even though no NATO member has sent the system there yet. Germany stuck to its original offer.

US Patriot missile system at the Polish border town of Rzeszow, close to the Ukraine
No NATO member has exported the Patriot system to Ukraine, only to its neighbors like PolandImage: Simon Jankowski/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said his country would accept Germany's offer to deploy a Patriot missile defense system to Poland

The move comes after a brief spat between Germany and Poland after Warsaw asked to have the air defense weapons be transferred to Ukraine instead

Berlin refused the proposal and said it would act the same way as the rest of NATO, not deploying this particular system in Ukraine.

Germany had made the offer after an errant missile fell in a Polish village near the border with Ukraine, killing two Polish men. Poland and NATO said it was likely a Ukrainian missile that misfired as Ukraine was defending itself against Russian strikes. 

Poland 'disappointed to accept'

"After talking to [Germany on Monday], I was disappointed to accept the decision to reject the support of Ukraine," Blaszczak wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. "Placing the Patriots in western Ukraine would increase the security of Poles and Ukrainians."

Warsaw and Berlin would nonetheless proceed "with arrangements regarding the placement of the launchers in Poland and connecting them to our command system," he said. 

A German Defense Ministry spokesman said that Blaszczak and Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht had "agreed in principle" for the original proposal to go ahead. 

"Details like potential places for deployment and the infrastructure required will now be discussed at the specialiast level," the spokesman said.

It's not the first time since the outbreak of war in Ukraine that Warsaw has sought to influence Berlin on military aid. Early in March, just a few weeks after Russia's invasion, Poland said it would donate some of its old Soviet-era Mig fighters to Ukraine in exchange for upgraded US replacements, but only if they were transferred via the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Warsaw had not cleared this with Germany or the US, which owns the base, and both parties ultimately rejected the proposal.

What is the Patriot system?

Made by US arms manufacturer Raytheon, the Patriot system is based on a collection of radars, command-and-control units and various missile interceptors covering a large area.

The system's radar can track up to 50 targets, and engage five of them at once. The interceptor missiles can reach an altitude of more than 2 kilometers (more than 1.25 miles) and hit targets up to 160 kilometers away.

A DW graphic showing core details about the Patriot missile defense system.

Raytheon says the missiles can defend against tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, drones, aircraft and "other threats."

The system is a key part of NATO's air defenses for its eastern flank. 

Germany, as well as other NATO members, have provided Kyiv with some defense systems like the medium-range Iris-T. But they have so far not sent the Patriot system to Ukraine. 

NATO's Jens Stoltenberg had not offered a firm opinion when asked about the Polish proposal, saying it was ultimately a "national decision" for Germany to make. 

NATO members have sold the Patriot system to allied countries outside the alliance, including South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Israel. But they have only stationed their own Patriot systems within NATO territory in Europe.

Germany has already deployed Patriot missiles to Slovakia, and the US deployed them to Poland. 

fb/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)

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