Poland announced yesterday that it would be buying Patriot missiles from U.S. manufacturer Raytheon in order to upgrade its missile defense shield, adding six batteries by 2022. And predictably enough—like clockwork, really—Russia bared its teeth at the announcement. Both Russia’s top general and its defense minister described the move as NATO aggression towards Russia and made threats towards Poland in response to the missile defense announcement. The Russian invective was also aimed at Romania, where NATO troops are currently holding military exercises and where a missile defense shield installation (of a different variety than the Patriot called Aegis Ashore) is in the works.The Wall Street Journal reports:
“Nonnuclear powers where missile-defense installations are being installed have become the objects of priority response,” Gen. Valery Gerasimov said, referring to Poland and Romania. […]Western leaders have said NATO’s long-running project to build a missile defense shield in Europe aimed to deter an attack from Iran rather than Russia, a position the alliance reiterated Thursday.Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said such assertions were a lie. “Today it is clear that the missile threat from Tehran that the U.S. and other countries of the alliance invented was a bluff,” he said.
These remarks echo similar statements from late March, when a Russian official threatened to target Denmark’s own missile defense installations with nukes.The purchase of the Patriots is part of Poland’s pledge to spend more than $1 billion annually for its military modernization budget, which, as Andrew Michta noted in our pages yesterday, makes its projected expenditures “roughly equal that of all the remaining 11 ‘new allies’ who joined NATO from 1999 onward.” This makes Warsaw the top defense spender in the Baltic-Central European theater, a development which could, and hopefully will, push fellow European NATO member countries towards fulfilling their commitment to spend two percent of GDP on defense.