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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Poland says it is close to finalizing $10 billion weapons deal with US

By Andrew Higgins

Poland said Thursday that it is close to finalizing a deal to buy additional U.S.-made HIMARS rocket launchers and related equipment worth up to $10 billion, expanding its effort to fortify its military after Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine, a year ago.

The purchase from the United States of more advanced rocket systems, which have been used to devastating effect by Ukraine’s military against invading Russian forces, is part of a rapid military buildup by Poland, a former member of the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact military alliance during the Cold War that became a member of NATO in 1999.

It was also seen as another sign that Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has only strengthened the U.S.-led NATO alliance rather than driving it away from what Russia views as its sphere of influence.

Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Twitter on Thursday that his country will buy “nearly 500 HIMARS launchers” and that a contract for the sale of “these state-of-the-art long-range artillery systems to the Polish Armed Forces” would be finalized soon.

The U.S. State Department earlier this month approved a request from Poland to buy 18 HIMARS launcher systems, which include trucks for mobile use, 468 launcher-loader module kits, 45 long-range guided missiles known as ATACMS, and hundreds of guided rockets, the Pentagon said. Congress was notified about the deal.

Poland had already ordered 20 HIMARS launchers — short for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System — in 2019 and was scheduled to take delivery of those later this year. Polish media outlets reported that most of the new HIMARS launchers would be mounted on Polish-made chassis.

The HIMARS, made by America’s largest military contractor, Lockheed Martin, have been high on Poland’s expanding shopping list for arms since last summer, when the Pentagon delivered a first batch of the truck-mounted, multiple rocket launchers to Ukraine, whose forces used them to help shift the momentum of the war with Russia.

Poland spent just over 2% of its gross domestic product on defense in 2021 and, after Russia invaded Ukraine, raised this spending to 3%. Its military spending will rise to 4% this year if the new weapon systems it has ordered are delivered, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in an interview this week in Warsaw.

That is twice the minimum level set by NATO for members of the alliance — a target that only nine of the alliance’s 30 nations currently meet. It is also more, as a proportion of GDP, than any other country spends, including the United States, which spends 3.3% on the military.

Poland last year placed orders for South Korean rocket launchers and acquired Patriot missile defense batteries from the United States. In January, Poland signed a $1.4 billion deal for 116 U.S.-made Abrams tanks to help replenish stocks depleted by its delivery of more than 240 of its Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine.

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