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Poland wants to divert pledged German air defenses to Ukraine

WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s Ministry of National Defence has effectively turned down Germany’s offer, for now, to deploy air defense systems along the neighbor’s border with Ukraine.

Officials here initially initially accepted Berlin’s gesture for Patriot launchers following a recent missile strike on Polish soil that killed two men. However, in an unexpected U-turn, Warsaw now suggests that Berlin deliver the systems to Ukraine instead to bolster that country’s defenses against Russia.

“After further missile attacks [by Russia], I have asked the [German] side to transfer and deploy the proposed Patriot batteries along the western border [of Ukraine]. This will allow to protect [Ukraine] from further casualties and blackout and enhance security along our eastern border,” Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak tweeted last week.

Two days earlier, the official said in a tweet he will propose to his German counterpart, Christine Lambrecht, “to deploy this system close to the border with Ukraine”. The initial positive response came shortly after Berlin offered to send the country’s Patriots and Eurofighter Typhoon jets to help safeguard Polish airspace.

For some observers in Poland, Błaszczak’s latest declaration represents a way of rejecting Lambrecht’s offer, as it would involve Germany sending its troops, who are to operate the launchers, to Ukraine amid the nation’s ongoing war with Russia. Berlin has supported Kyiv with weapons and military gear, but, like all other NATO member states, it has also kept its armed forces away from direct involvement in the conflict. Compliance with Poland’s proposal would force Germany to cross that line.

Lambrecht has replied to Błaszczak’s proposal by saying the offered Patriots are part of NATO’s integrated air-defense system, and their potential deployment outside the alliance’s territory would need to be agreed with NATO and its member states.

Meanwhile, the latest development has also exposed differences within the country’s ruling Law and Justice party.

On Nov. 25, Polish President Andrzej Duda, who was re-elected in 2020 with the party’s support, tweeted that if Germany “does not agree to deliver the batteries to Ukraine, then we must accept this defense here” in Poland. Duda’s statement could signal that some decision-makers in Warsaw are willing to reach an understanding with Berlin.

The fatal missile strike occurred in Poland’s southeast on Nov. 15 after Russia launched its largest string of attacks on Ukrainian cities in more than a month. The Polish authorities believe the incident was most likely triggered by Ukraine’s air-defense attempting to intercept a missile fired by Russia’s armed forces.

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