100 GIs to man Patriot missile battery in Poland
ARLINGTON, Va. — About 100 U.S. soldiers are expected to man a Patriot missile battery in Poland as part of an agreement recently struck between U.S. and Polish officials, a top State Department official said Monday.
Under the agreement, the United States can base part of its missile defense system in Poland; in return, the U.S. military will send Patriot missiles to Poland.
Both sides hope to establish a garrison for the battery by 2012, said John C. Rood, acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.
"The Patriot battery in question will be a U.S. Army Patriot battery, so it will be owned and operated by the United States Army … The Polish government has agreed to furnish a site, as well as infrastructure and necessary facilities for establishment of a Patriot garrison," Rood said at a news conference Monday.
"A battery of this size should be a little over 100 people for the air defenders, adding in the rest of the complement responsible for security and maintenance and things of that nature would add people; I don’t have a specific number for you on that."
The Patriot battery will be an existing battery moved to Poland from another location, such as Germany or Texas, Rood said.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates will determine where the Patriot battery will come from.
The pact between Warsaw and Washington comes at a time of escalating tensions with Russia, which invaded neighboring Georgia on Aug. 6.
After the agreement was announced earlier this month, Russia threatened to target Poland with nuclear weapons.
Gates has said Russia’s invasion of Georgia showed it was trying to reassert its control over former parts of the Soviet Union and punish former Eastern bloc countries that are developing close ties with the west.
"My guess is that most of those countries, if not all of them, probably have a higher incentive to stand with us now than they did before, now that they have seen what the Russians have done in Georgia," he said on Aug. 14, just before the agreement with Poland was announced.