|U.S.-Poland Military Cooperation Appears To Improve |
9/28/2006 - U.S.-Poland Military Cooperation Appears To Improve
BY ALEX STOROZYNSKI - Special to the Sun
September 15, 2006
FORT WORTH, Texas â€” Military cooperation between America and Poland appears ready to take off to a higher level as Prime Minister Kaczynski is to arrive here today to accept three of 48 F-16s that his country is buying from Lockheed Martin. In addition, the Pentagon is negotiating with Poland to place a Star Wars-type missile defense shield on Polish territory that could shoot down rockets fired at America or its NATO allies.
Yesterday, as Polish Defense Minister Radek Sikorski climbed out of an F-16, he was doused with a bucket of water by American pilots who christened his maiden voyage flying at 9 Gs.
The minister laughed at American pilots hazing and addressed several dozen of his own nation's pilots, engineers, and mechanics who are here training on the new equipment, saying, "This aircraft will help keep the skies above Poland safe."
But, more important, according to a test pilot for Lockheed Martin, Bill Gigliotti, these F-16s make Poland a more significant "player" in NATO because these new jets will be the more technologically advanced aircraft available to NATO partners.
After emerging from Soviet domination behind the Iron Curtain, Poland joined NATO in 1999 and then established even closer military ties with America in 2003 when it agreed to lead the multinational zone in Iraq.
Mr. Gigliotti said: "The F-16 program is about more than just an aircraft. It represents a partnership between Poland and the United States. What this means to the Polish Air Force is full and instant operability with NATO. When delivered, the Poland F-16 will be the most advanced fighter aircraft in NATO. Now, Poland can participate in NATO coalition contingency planning operations."
Mr. Kaczynski on Wednesday announced in Washington that Poland would up its contingent in Afghanistan from 100 to 1,000 soldiers to help fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Mr. Sikorski told the Sun, "Afghanistan paid a terrible price for standing up to the Evil Empire in the 1980s. We in Poland know the true meaning of solidarity, and we want NATO to confirm its credibility."
Mr. Sikorski said that, while Poland is a committed partner in supporting America in the war on terror, it also ask to think of its own security.
President Putin of Russia has put missiles on the Polish border, the first hostile deployment on a NATO border in 20 years, and he is threatening to put up more missiles if Poland agreed to the missile defense base.
While the Polish government is willing to take on the higher risk of taking an obvious target on its territory, the missile base agreement would have trouble passing the Polish parliament unless America helps to counter Russia's hostile deployments. Then negotiations on the missile defense system will likely heat up when Poland's president, Lech Kaczynski, the prime minister's brother, will visit America next week.