World Events Complicate Polish Air Defense System Selection

 - July 17, 2014, 2:00 AM

The Wisła (“Shield of Poland”) air and missile defense (AMD) program is the largest and most far-reaching defense procurement ever in the post-Communist history of this NATO border nation. The program has immense implications for Poland’s national security even under normal circumstances, but the invasion and occupation of the Ukrainian region of the Crimea by Russia, and an escalating Russian-backed incursion in the eastern regions of Ukraine, has upped the stakes in this program.

For now, the assumption is that the Poles would purchase six batteries, which was the baseline for an in-depth study performed recently by the Kazimierz Pulaski Foundation, a prestigious defense and foreign affairs think tank in Warsaw affiliated with the Biuro Bezpieczenstwa Narodowego (National Security Bureau, or BBN). The BBN reports directly to the president of Poland, Bronisław Komorowski, and the director of the BBN, Gen. Stanisław Koziej, who has had a pivotal role in establishing the criteria for the Wisła program, as well as establishing the legislation and mechanisms for funding it.

The Pulaski report states that the SAMP/T proposal gives the fullest possible engagement and possibilities for Polish industry, and that “choosing this offer would also have a certain political context, showing Poland’s will to commit its national security with Europe even further (with France, in particular) and strengthen the common security and defense policy of the EU.”

But because of the situation in Ukraine and Poland’s traditional mistrust of Russia, there are Polish and Western national security analysts who believe the acquisition of a system that is a known quantity and is already in use by many of Poland’s NATO neighbors is the more logical choice, and the report concurs with this.

“The [Raytheon PAC-3 MSE] Patriot missile system is the most combat-proven solution, most widely used by other countries,” states the Pulaski report. “This makes it a relatively safe proposal.” An additional factor that works in favor of a U.S. solution like PAC-3 is that France refuses to cancel the sale of four DCNS Mistral-class helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ships ordered by Russia.