President Donald Trump agreed to sell Patriot missile defense systems to Poland Wednesday, in an apparent counter to the growing Russian threat on Europe’s eastern border.
A memorandum was signed by Trump on his first day in the country, according to Poland’s Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz.
“A memorandum was signed tonight that the U.S. government has agreed to sell Poland Patriot missiles in the most modern configuration,” said Macierewicz, as reported by Voice of America. “I am glad that I can pass on this information on the day of President’s Trump visit to Warsaw.”
The Patriot missile system is the main missile defense system in the U.S. arsenal. It is tailor-made to shoot down enemy missiles, and became famous for blowing former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles out of sky during the first Gulf War.
Trump’s signing of the memorandum is timely, as Russia has significantly increased its military presence along the eastern European border, presenting a direct threat to Poland and its neighbors.
Russia’s stationing of nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad in October was of particular concern for the Poles. Kaliningrad is a small Russian enclave bordering Poland to the south and Lithuania to the east. It’s strategic location as Russia’s westernmost military hub makes it a key area of concern as tensions continue to increase between Russia and NATO.
“Clearly the Poles feel threatened by a growing Russian presence in the region,” John Cappello, a former Air Force officer who worked at the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “And the missiles in Kaliningrad are particularly worrisome for the Poles. The patriot is certainly a response to these.”
Poland originally signaled its intent to buy Patriot in March. Cappello noted it would make sense to sign the final agreement during Trump’s visit.
The U.S. is also helping Poland achieve energy security with shipments of liquefied natural gas as part of a larger strategy to strengthen Europe’s eastern flank. Poland, in addition to several other European countries, has traditionally relied on Russia as a major supplier of LNG.
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