Poland to join European Sky Shield scheme, following thaw with Berlin

Poland to join European Sky Shield scheme, following thaw with Berlin

WARSAW, Poland — Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced this week that Poland will join the German-led European Sky Shield Initiative, a continent-wide effort to coordinate nations’ air defense-related purchases and procedures.

The moves amounts to a major policy shift under the new government, as the previous Cabinet of the right-wing Law and Justice party opposed partaking in the initiative due its its frosty relations with Berlin.

“We will cooperate as part of the European Sky Shield Initiative,” Tusk said at an April 16 Cabinet meeting, as quoted in a statement released by his office. “It completely does not bother me that the Germans were the main initiators of this initiative.”

Meanwhile, Polish President Andrzej Duda, who was re-elected in 2020 with the Law and Justice party’s backing, commented on those plans the same day, calling ESSI a “German business project.”

Unveiled by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in August 2022 as a reaction to Russia’s war against Ukraine, the ESSI project initially included 15 NATO members, but more have since joined. In February, Turkey and Greece announced their intention to join the project, bringing the total number of participating states to 21. To program’s objectives include improving the interoperability of air defense systems and streamlining joint procurement of capacities across the continent.

In Poland’s political system, the president is the supreme commander of the armed forces but does not have the political power to stop the government from joining an international defense program.

Prime Minister Tusk also said that Warsaw is carefully observing the Israeli experiences with air defense, as Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has accelerated efforts by Poland to develop its capacities within this field.

The ESSI “is functioning with the use of, among others, Israeli” systems, he said. “In the case of Israel, more than 90% of rockets, drones, ballistic missiles have been struck owing to, among others, the Irone Dome. This system works.”

In line with existing investment plans, Poland’s air defense system is to rely on the Wisla mid-range air defense system, which features Patriot batteries, paired with two other layers of air defense. These include the Narew short-range air defense system, based on the Common Anti-air Modular Missiles, or CAMM, as well as iLaunchers from European consortium MBDA, and Pilica+ very-short-range air defense batteries developed by the Polish defense industry.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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