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US deploys Patriot missile systems just 50 miles from Ukraine border

U.S. Soldiers train Polish troops on how to conduct preventive maintenance on the Patriot Missile systems in Morag, Poland, June 1, 2010. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Lawree Washingtonn, Released)
March 15, 2022

A pair of U.S. Patriot missile defense systems arrived in Poland on Tuesday and were installed at an airport located just 50 miles from its border with Ukraine, where Russian military forces are invading.

The Daily Mail reported the missile defense systems were installed at the Rzeszow-Jasionka International Airport in Rzeszów, Poland. The city is located 50 miles from Poland’s southeast border and about 100 miles from the southwest Ukrainian city of Lviv.

The Patriot systems arrived at the Polish airport about a week after the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) announced the U.S. would send two of the missile defense systems to the eastern North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally.

“This defensive deployment is being conducted proactively to counter any potential threat to U.S. and Allied forces and NATO territory,” EUCOM said last week.

Russian forces struck the Lviv area over the weekend, damaging a sprawling Ukrainian military base near the city of Yavoriv, a western outskirt of Lviv. The Russian strikes reportedly landed as close as 10 miles from the Polish-Ukrainian border and killed as many as 35 people.

Until recently, U.S. and other NATO military trainers had been stationed at the Ukrainian military base in Yavoriv, known as the International Peacekeeping and Security Center (IPSC). Members of the Florida National Guard’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, known as Task Force Gator, had been at the facility as recently as early February. By Feb. 12, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had ordered those Florida National Guard troops to leave the country, Military Times reported.

The heavy Russian strike near Ukraine’s border with a NATO-allied nation raises the risk of miscalculation that could lead to Poland being hit. Such an event raises the risk of triggering NATO’s Article 5, which states that if one or more NATO members are targeted with an armed attack, the rest of the alliance will consider it an attack on all of them and will act in collective self-defense. If a Russian attack were to cause NATO to invoke Article 5, it would pit nuclear-armed Russia against nuclear-armed NATO allies, including the U.S., U.K., and France.

U.S. President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg have already warned the alliance will “defend every inch of NATO territory.”

The pair of Patriot missile defense systems could help protect against an errant Russian missile strike or intentional attack.

The two new Patriot missile defense systems could be integrated with the two other Patriot systems already in Poland’s possession.