Lethargy in the Air Defense

One’s first reaction might well be that this is hardly something you should discuss publicly over the national airwaves. Then again, Poland has certainly become considerably more transparent since the bad old days of the “People’s Republic” (Rzeczpospolita Ludowa):

The tweet is from Polskie Radio, and as is the very function of their feed, they’re tweeting about some interview they will broadcast (or have broadcasted). “Minister of National Defense: we really need air-defense weapons fit for the XXIst century.”(!) And the lede:

As MON [= Ministry of Defense] Chief Tomasz Siemoniak said on Radio 3, it has not yet been decided that American Patriot rockets will be chosen for Polish air defense.

Now, it happens that some Patriots are due in Poland quite soon, at the end of March, but they don’t belong to Poland, they are American and will be there in connection with an ongoing series of military exercises with American forces that are clearly an explicit response to all the trouble happening on the other side of Poland’s eastern border.

And that is just it: especially given that strategic context, why are people hearing statements like the following?

We really need anti-aircraft defense for the twenty-first century, that’s been a priority for the last three years. It’s not only about the purchase of specific equipment, it’s also a matter of deep cooperation with other governments. You have to look at it as the complex affair it is.

Right, and against the American offer to sell Patriots, the Polish Ministry of Defense is also considering what he called in the interview the French SAMP/T air defense system, which would seem to be from out of the larger “Aster” family of military missiles developed jointly by France and Italy. That decision is due at the end of May. But to me, the whole tone of Siemoniak’s report here is that of wanting to excuse delay and inaction.

You’d have to assume that Russian intelligence does not require discussion on public interview programs to have a very good idea about the nature of Poland’s air defense weaponry. (Indeed, the reply-tweet you see there from @KajdasMarek suggests that what they have to work with for now is merely 23mm and 57mm guns from the 1960s.)

I guess what disturbs me the most about this news is the seeming lackadaisical attitude here in the face of a very real threat from the East, to which most Polish political actors, at least, have been quick to respond. But their efforts will have been in vain if/when the Russian air force gains air superiority over Polish territory through sneak-attack – and the nearest American air bases are far back in Western Germany!

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