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Poland: U.S. Moves First Missiles, Troops Near Russian Border

By       Message Rick Rozoff       (Page 1 of 5 pages)     Permalink

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Poland: U.S. Moves First Missiles, Troops Near Russian Border
Rick Rozoff

On May 26 Polish news media announced that the first American Patriot interceptor missile battery and 100 U.S. troops were officially welcomed by Defense Minister Bogdan Klich, U.S. Ambassador Lee Feinstein and Brigadier General Mark Bellini of U.S. Army Europe at a ceremony in Poland.

American troops, it was further reported, had arrived over the previous weekend from a base in Germany to unload over 37 railway cars and assemble the Patriots in the Polish town of Morag, only 60 kilometers from Russia's northwestern border in the Kaliningrad district. Details concerning the Patriot deployment and the stationing of as many as 150 U.S. servicemen were finalized in a supplemental Status of Forces Agreement between Washington and Warsaw in February.

One of Britain's major daily newspapers characterized the development as follows: "The mission amounts to the most significant deployment ever of US forces to Poland, which once was behind the Iron Curtain but is now an enthusiastic member of Nato." [1]

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At the unveiling of the missile battery the Polish defense chief stated that "Placing the Patriot batteries in Poland makes the country more secure and contributes to Poland's cooperation with the U.S," and, allowing for an imperfect translation, "The more America and Europe in Poland, the more Poland in American and European politics." [2]

The Associated Press reminded its readers on the occasion that "The U.S military has previously carried out training exercises in Poland, and
has also trained the Polish air force to operate F-16 military fighter planes, which Poland bought to modernize its military."

In fact between November of 2006 and December of 2008 Poland received 48 F-16 Fighting Falcon American warplanes and the Pentagon and NATO conduct regular military exercises - infantry, naval and air - at Polish bases.

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What is qualitatively different about this week's events, though, was spelled out by Andrew Paul, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, who acknowledged "that the Patriot garrison involves a longer time commitment than anything before, and marks 'the first continuing presence' of American soldiers and equipment in Poland." [3] The U.S. troops who arrived earlier this week are the first foreign ones based on Polish soil since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact twenty years ago.

Blaise Pascal wrote in his Pensees that what is truth on one side of the Pyrenees is falsehood on the other.

The response east of the Polish-Russian border was less enthusiastic than it was on the other side.

On May 28 Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Grushko spoke to a press conference and warned that "if the Patriot missile systems continued to be deployed on a permanent basis, that would be in breach of the pledge that NATO made when signing the Founding Act to the effect that the North Atlantic Alliance nations would refrain from stationing major military forces in the vicinity of the Russian border." [4]

He was referring to a provision of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation signed in Paris in 1997, one which confirms adherence to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) originally signed by the 16 members of NATO and the six members of the Warsaw Pact in 1990. (The former German Democratic Republic was by that point part of a united Federal Republic.)

The 1997 NATO-Russia accord mentions that "Russia and the member States of NATO reaffirm that States Parties to the CFE Treaty should maintain only such military capabilities individually or in conjunction with others, as are commensurate with individual or collective legitimate security needs," and "Russia and the member States of NATO will, together with other States Parties, seek to strengthen stability by further developing measures to prevent any potentially threatening build-up of conventional forces in agreed regions of Europe, to include Central and Eastern Europe."

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The document also states that "NATO reiterates that in the current and foreseeable security environment, the Alliance will carry out its collective defense and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces." [5]

In short, moving NATO, and especially American, troops and military infrastructure into Eastern Europe, a few miles from Russian territory at that, on anything other than a temporary basis - and as was seen above, the U.S. embassy in Warsaw itself identified the new deployment as a "continuing presence" of troops and military equipment in Poland - is an incontrovertible violation of the 1997 NATO-Russia agreement, as it is of the earlier CFE treaty on the reduction of conventional weaponry (tanks, armored personnel carriers, combat aircraft and helicopters, and artillery, to say nothing of missiles) in Europe.

The first two times Washington and NATO deployed Patriot batteries were to Saudi Arabia in 1990-1991 and to Turkey in 2003, in both cases ostensibly to prevent Iraqi retaliation for U.S. and allied attacks. No one in the White House, State Department or the Pentagon has yet to offer an honest explanation for the presence of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles so close to Russia's border, ones which even with a limited range would, if used, intercept and destroy incoming missiles over Russian territory.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/

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