The U.S. is sending two Patriot missile defense systems to Poland amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
The U.S. European Command (EUCOM) announced the Patriot missile system deployment in a statement provided to the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
“This defensive deployment is being conducted proactively to counter any potential threat to U.S. and Allied forces and NATO territory,” the EUCOM statement read.
Poland has reportedly served as a critical point in Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine, taking in the majority of refugees fleeing Ukraine. According to the Washington Post, more than half of the 2 million refugees who have fled Ukraine in the past two weeks have gone through Poland, while others have fled through Moldova, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary.
Poland has also served as a key staging area for weapons and supplies flowing into Ukraine to support the country’s defenses. Western officials are unlikely to share the exact locations where weapons are being transferred over to Ukraine for operational security reasons, but the Polish government has announced it has shipped ammunition to Ukraine by roadway, according to Politico. Last week, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly also said this she was able to get an agreement from Poland to make sure that weapons deliveries could be “done through their borders.”
Poland’s proximity to the conflict in Ukraine, as well as its involvement in supplying Ukraine’s defenses, potentially raises its risk of Russian retaliation and even hostile military action.
A senior defense official told the Wall Street Journal that Russia has fired at least 670 missiles into Ukraine since the start of the invasion on Feb. 24. According to the Wall Street Journal, there are also fears that an errant Russian missile could land in Poland.
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.
Poland has also proposed transferring its fleet of Mig-29 fighter jets to a U.S. base in Germany to then be transferred to Ukraine in exchange for comparable U.S. fighter jets. Thus far, the U.S. has rejected the idea.
On Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Poland’s proposed transfer of fighter jets “raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance.”
“It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it,” Kirby added. “We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one.”