Sunday, November 20th, German Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht proposed support for Poland, including Patriot air defence systems and Eurofighter planes to protect Polish airspace. Polish Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Mariusz Baszczak accepted the plan “with satisfaction” in response surprisingly fast.
The ministers spoke by phone on Monday afternoon, after which Baszczak announced that “the version of the system remains to be determined, how quickly they will reach us and how long they will be stationed. I am counting on the German side to provide details soon.”
After many months of German dithering, lukewarm assistance to Ukraine, and multiple more or less acrimonious disagreements between Warsaw and Berlin, a concrete and, most crucially, reasonable plan for military aid emerged.
In the name of values and internal political battle, the ever-opposing Polish side did not immediately say “no” to German Patriots. Else, Poland will find it difficult to explain, even in a NATO meeting, a prompt and unjustified refusal of assistance from a Western partner. Warsaw informed Berlin partners, “I’m checking.” Now the ball is in their court.
From the German perspective, there are two areas of concern. The first is political. If the Poles would quickly say “no”, and the Germans would be able to say that we wanted to, but … On the other hand, if the ministers agreed, the question is how long it would take Germany to implement this political decision.
As demonstrated by the experience with the delivery of armaments to Ukraine, it is common for several months to pass between the statement and the implementation, and the effect must still be as declared. The strongest evidence of this is that, for instance, the German defence industry signalled that it was ready to deliver equipment immediately (including Marder combat vehicles), but the government did not give its approval. German participation rose in Lithuania, but only on paper. According to a recent report by “Die Welt,” there are no firm plans after months of announcements. This is becoming increasingly irritating for Lithuanians. In the case of Poland, if it were to conclude with political declarations, the PiS administration would not squander the opportunity to achieve a political objective.
The German military’s capability is the second area where issues may or may not develop. During the Cold War, when Germany was a NATO frontline nation, it fielded 36 Patriot batteries. Currently, the German military has twelve batteries. In the weeks following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, two such units were sent to Slovakia. Therefore, the Germans were left with ten remaining units. However, it is important to remember that in no army, not even Germany’s, everything is operational and readily accessible to be dispatched to the battle zone. However, the German Air Force declared their readiness.
In the coming weeks, the international community will witness German military readiness. Without a detailed action plan within a few days, the German proposal will be political rhetoric.
Patriots in Poland
There are already two Patriot batteries of American soldiers stationed in Poland, one of which is located in Rzeszow. In April 2015, Poland selected the Patriot system as the cornerstone for its Wisa medium-range air defence programme.
Błaszczak wants to transfer Patriot systems to Ukraine
Poland will not leave any chance to show Germany in a bad light; thus, on Wednesday, Baszczak disclosed that he had requested that the Patriot batteries planned for Poland be sent to Ukraine.
“After subsequent missile attacks by Russia, I asked the German side to transfer the Patriot batteries proposed to Poland to Ukraine and deploy them at the western border. This will protect Ukraine from further victims and blackouts and will increase security at our eastern border,” wrote Błaszczak on Twitter.
Ukraine was quick to react. “The deployment of Patriot systems in the west of Ukraine would strengthen the security of the airspace of Ukraine and Europe,” said Yuri Ihnat, spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, commenting on the initiative of the Polish authorities regarding the German offer of support for Patriots.
– And why in Poland? You can deploy in Ukraine, in the west. This is a question for our partners, what steps are they ready to take to defend the Ukrainian border and Ukrainian territory and Europe, to ensure airspace security on the outskirts of Europe,” said Ihnat, quoted by RBK-Ukraina. “This will, of course, help; the kit has a range of over 100 km. (…) The system could potentially strengthen the defence of the Ukrainian sky”,” he added.
Thursday, German Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht stated that the Patriot air defence systems being provided to Poland are meant for deployment on NATO territory. Therefore, she opposed Poland’s intention to ship this equipment to Ukraine.
According to Lambrecht, as part of NATO’s integrated air defence, these Patriots will be stationed on NATO territory. She said any use outside of NATO territory would require prior consultation with NATO and allies.