The United States is set to sell an unknown number of Patriot Missile Defense Systems to Poland, following an agreement reached and announced this week. The timing of the announcement is politically significant, as missile defense systems in Poland were once a critical and contentious diplomatic issue between the U.S. and Russia.

Poland’s Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz made the first public announcement of the agreement, “A memorandum was signed tonight that the U.S. government has agreed to sell Poland Patriot missiles in the most modern configuration,” he said. “I am glad that I can pass on this information on the day of President’s Trump visit to Warsaw,” Reuters reported.

President Barack Obama, following an intense political backlash from Vladimir Putin in 2009, withdrew plans to station missile defense systems on a permanent basis in Poland as a means of political concession.

The Patriot missile system is designed to engage and destroy short to intermediate range ballistic missiles, the types of missiles Russia possesses in significant quantities and would employ should war break out in Europe.

Even though the Patriot system is over 40 years old, upgrades have kept the technology continuously improving and relevant. The system made headlines recently when a U.S. ally used a Patriot missile to shoot down a commercial drone, valued at around $200. A single missile fired by the Patriot system costs $3.4 million. Few nations have had the opportunity to buy the American technology. Close U.S. allies like Germany, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates are among those who possess the missile system.

Previously, Poland had said it planned on buying eight Patriot missile systems from Raytheon for $7.6 billion.
In addition to warning Russia to stop supporting regimes that threaten the West and join “responsible nations,” Trump planned his run-up to the G20 summit and his meeting with Putin as a way to reinforce his support for NATO.

Image courtesy of the Department of Defense