Poland angers some by rejecting German air defense system

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Poland’s government says a missile defense system that Germany has offered to send to Poland should instead go to Ukraine, a proposal that is likely a non-starter for Berlin because it undermines NATO’s commitment in of Ukraine would be significantly strengthened.

Poland’s surprise response to Berlin’s offer has been welcomed by Ukraine, which is desperate to protect its airspace as a barrage of Russian missile barrage has crippled power supplies across the country.

However, Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht emphasized that the use of NATO defense systems outside of their sovereign territory must be approved by all member states.

“It is important to us that Poland can rely on allies who support each other, even in difficult times, and Poland in particular in its exposed situation,” Lambrecht told journalists in Berlin.

“That’s why we offered to support Air Policing and Patriots, but these Patriots are part of NATO’s integrated air defense, that is, they are destined for NATO territory,” the minister said. “If they are deployed outside of NATO territory, this must be coordinated with NATO and its allies beforehand.”

In Poland, critics have accused the populist ruling party of sacrificing the country’s security with a war next door in Ukraine in favor of a domestic struggle that exploits short-term anti-German sentiment.

The daily Rzeczpospolita called the Polish leadership’s new proposal “shocking,” arguing that it would require German soldiers to be sent to Ukraine, “which in turn would engage NATO in a direct clash with Russia, which the alliance was trying to do from the start.” to avoid.”

“This proposal affects Poland’s credibility and, above all, its security. The Germans are getting a clear signal that we don’t want their help, so the defensive potential of Polish skies will be lower,” wrote Deputy Editor-in-Chief Michal Szuldrzynski. “In the worst war in Europe since 1945, that’s an unforgivable mistake.”

Poland’s populist ruling party, which faces elections next autumn whose popularity is being eroded by 18 percent inflation, has stepped up its anti-German messages, which have long been a staple of the party’s campaign rhetoric. Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski has also sought to tie his domestic opponents, particularly Donald Tusk, a former EU leader, to Germany, saying on Sunday if Tusk’s party wins next year Poland would be “under the German boot”.

When Germany recently offered Warsaw Eurofighter aircraft and Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries, Poland’s Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak initially said it was an offer he would accept with “satisfaction”. The offer came after two men were killed when an apparently stray Ukrainian defense projectile struck Poland near the border with Ukraine on November 15.

But Poland’s mood changed after Kaczynski gave an interview to state news agency PAP on Wednesday, in which he said the offer was “interesting” but “it would be best for Poland’s security if Germany handed over the equipment to the Ukrainians.” “.

Since then, both Blaszczak and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki have reiterated the position of Kaczynski, the country’s most powerful leader.

After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, NATO beefed up defenses along its eastern flank, including Poland, while Warsaw worked to bolster the nation’s own military with massive arms purchases.

NATO deployed US Patriot batteries to Poland and German Patriot batteries to Slovakia, and a French equivalent system to Romania.

NATO policy is not to intervene directly in the war and to use the batteries only to protect member countries.

Tapping into anti-German sentiment has long been a political strategy to win votes in Poland. Elderly Poles still bear the trauma of the atrocities inflicted on Poland by Germany during World War II. During the election campaign, Poland is demanding $1.3 trillion in war reparations from Germany – a bill that Berlin says it will not pay.

Kaczynski also accuses Germany of supporting EU efforts to defend the rule of law in Poland and reverse changes in the judiciary by withholding funding.

Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created new strains. Poland has long been a critic of Germany’s gas deals with Russia, and also criticized Berlin’s initial reluctance to arm Ukraine.

In Poland, some critics have pointed out that the government is not only refusing increased military protection, but is also turning its back on critical EU funding, billions of euros made available by the government’s refusal to comply with EU guidelines to maintain independence from Poland to obey judges were stopped.

Marcin Kierwinski of the opposition Civic Platform party said Kaczynski had “gone insane” for “rejecting” the Patriot missiles and EU funding “during war and crisis”.

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Associated Press writers Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.

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Follow all AP stories on the fallout from the war in Ukraine

https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.

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