Barbecues and ping-pong: President Barack Obama’s week-long European trip has hardly been a standard one, not least for the choice of destinations. Following visits to long-term US allies Ireland and the UK (today he heads to France), Team Obama touches down in Poland on Friday for a two day trip. It may be an unorthodox addition to the itinerary, but Poland could possibly prove to be the most crucial stop on his trip.
US-Polish defence cooperation will reportedly be one of the hottest issues during Obama’s first visit to Poland. Despite an earlier decision by Washington to put Bush-era missile defence plans on hold, American MIM-104 Patriot missile launchers have been deployed in rotation at two Polish military bases since last May.
Hopes are high in Warsaw that Obama’s trip could bring the much-awaited announcement of a further deepening of military ties. In March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Washington could deploy an F-16 fighter unit to Poland.
But the proposal was condemned by Moscow. In spite of recent attempts by both countries to break the frosty impasse, Poland’s relations with Russia, its Soviet-era master, have remained decidedly cool over the years. The latter’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 angered decision-makers in Warsaw and numerous Polish politicians say boosting defence cooperation with the US is the best guarantee of their country’s borders.
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