Germany in talks with allies over Polish push for Patriot deployment to Ukraine
By Sabine Siebold and Alan Charlish
BERLIN/WARSAW (Reuters) -Germany said on Friday it was discussing with allies Poland’s request that German Patriot air defence units be sent to Ukraine, after NATO’s chief suggested the military alliance might not oppose such a move.
“We are talking with our allies about how to handle Poland’s … suggestion,” a German government spokesperson told reporters in Berlin.
Berlin offered Warsaw the Patriot system to help secure its airspace after a stray missile crashed and killed two people in Poland last week. Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak later asked Germany to send the fire units to Ukraine instead.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said such deployments should be decisions for individual nations, taking into account rules around final users.
“The specific decisions on specific systems are national decisions,” he told reporters in Brussels.
“Sometimes there are end users agreements and other things so they need to consult with other allies. But at the end of the day, it (the decision) has to be taken by the national governments,” he added.
Stoltenberg’s comments came after German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht on Thursday said sharing Germany’s Patriot units outside NATO territory would require prior discussions with NATO and the allies.
Patriots are produced by the U.S. company Raytheon.
On Friday, the Polish president said it was Germany’s decision where its Patriot air defence units are stationed, adding that it would be better for Poland’s security if they were on Ukrainian territory near the border.
“From a military point of view, it would be best if they were located in Ukraine to also protect Polish territory, then they would protect both Ukraine and Poland most effectively,” Andrzej Duda told a news conference in Kaunas, Lithuania. “But the decision rests with the German side.”
Duda later said that Germany could send the Patriot units to Ukraine without NATO troops to operate them, something he says Kyiv has been asking for for a while.
“But if there is no consent to this, let them be here (in Poland) and protect us,” Duda wrote on Twitter.
On the sidelines of NATO drills in northeastern Poland, Blaszczak took a swipe at Berlin by saying he was surprised by the idea that the German Patriots might be too advanced to be transferred to Ukraine.
“These are the old patriots, the Polish version is the newest … the claim that the old German Patriots are very advanced is not true,” he said.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Bart Meijer and Miranda Murray; Additional reporting by Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw; editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Philippa Fletcher, William Maclean)