Poland and Baltic States Seek Missile Shield to Deter Russia
Rahvusvahelised uudised 16 Jun 2016  EWR
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Divisions within NATO could stymie demands from Russian neighbors for bigger, better weaponry.

tol.org 13 June 2016
Poland and the Baltic States are attempting to build a regional anti-aircraft missile shield to counteract overwhelming Russian air superiority close to home, according to the Financial Times. Despite NATO’s promise of four new battalions of troops to be permanently deployed in the region, many are skeptical of NATO’s ability to deter a potential Russian military incursion on the eastern front.

Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, many Eastern European countries have attempted to shore up their defenses and have sought a stronger NATO presence on their territory.

“We are in discussions now with the Estonians, the Latvians, and the Poles over how we can create some kind of regional air defense system,” Lithuanian Defense Minister Juozas Olekas told the FT on 10 June. American Patriot missiles are being considered as the four countries evaluate procurement possibilities, according to Reuters.

In addition to a proposed anti-aircraft missile shield, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are also lobbying NATO for an air mission requiring the deployment of dozens of warplanes, said Lithuania’s defense chief, Lieutenant General Vytautas Zukas.

These proposals are likely to meet opposition within the alliance by countries that fear the eastern members are “paranoid” about Russia, the FT says. France and Germany are pushing for a less hard-line stance toward Russia.

“We need to think about an air-based component, a ground-based component, having more fighters, having new rules of engagement, and command and control,” Zukas said.

• Poland plans to add 50,000 more soldiers to its standing army of 100,000 as part of a decade-long military buildup.

• Southern NATO nations currently focusing on the migrant crisis are unlikely to support the further allocation of funds to an expanded military presence on the eastern front, Reuters says.

• Poland’s conservative government is chary of paying the $5 billion price tag to U.S. defense firm Raytheon for Patriot missiles agreed by the previous government unless Washington sweetens the deal by granting access to other military technologies, Reuters cited Deputy Defense Minister Bartosz Kownacki as saying in February.

Compiled by Matthew Finkel
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