In the past 20 years, Poland has gone from a Soviet satellite state to a free and democratic republic with a NATO membership. Following Russia’s illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea, the U.S. should do more to support its Polish allies.
When it comes to serving alongside U.S. troops, Poland has proven a faithful ally. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Poland deployed 2,500 troops to south-central Iraq. Poland currently deploys 971 troops in Afghanistan.
Warsaw sees Russia’s recent actions in Crimea through the lens of the Obama Administration’s larger policy in Eastern Europe. In 2009, the President abruptly dropped a plan for missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic as part of a “reset” policy to build a stronger alliance with Moscow.
Instead, President Obama proposed a four-phase missile defense plan called the European Phased Adaptive Approach. Last year, the Obama Administration cancelled phase four of the project, which called for the installation of SM-3 Block IIB interceptor missiles in Poland. Phase four was a crucial part for U.S. homeland missile defense because those interceptors were to serve as a defense against a long-range ballistic missile attack.
In light of the Ukrainian crisis the U.S. has announced the deployment of additional F-16 fighter jets and 300 U.S. airmen to Poland for training exercises. This is a good start, but more has to be done. The U.S. should invest in a missile defense system in Poland and install X-band tracking radar in the Czech Republic, which would help the U.S. counter a ballistic missile threat from Iran. At the same time, it would send a clear message to Moscow that the U.S. stands by Poland and its other NATO allies.
Jakub Gorski is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.