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Warsaw (AFP) March 20, 2013
Poland said Wednesday it would spend 33.6 billion euros ($43.3 bn) to set up its own missile shield, days after the US announced it was ready to abandon the final phase of the European missile defence system.
"We will create our own air defence system. Our national missile shield, with the American shield, the elements of which will be on our territory by 2018 and will make up part of the NATO system," Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told parliament Wednesday in his annual address outlining this EU and NATO member's foreign policy priorities.
"We will build up our deterrence forces -- we will procure missiles, helicopters, armoured personnel carrier, submarines and drones," Sikorski said, stressing that "the trans-Altantic alliance will remain our principle guarantor of security."
Insisting a military upgrade was Poland's top priority for the decade ahead, Sikorski vowed to spend 33.6 billion euros over the period.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski had insisted in August that Poland should set up its own missile shield to defend its territory as part of the wider NATO project.
In May, the Western defence alliance officially launched the first phase of its European missile shield, that the US has pushed for as a foil against a perceived threat from Iran, despite strong opposition from Russia which saw it as a grave threat at its doorstep.
US President Barack Obama's current plan for Europe envisages the shield as being made up of a super-powerful radar deployed in Turkey, SM-3 IIA interceptors missiles mounted aboard frigates stationed in the Mediterranean and 24 missile interceptors based in Poland and as many in Romania.
But a Friday announcement by US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel that Washington would deploy an additional 14 anti-missile interceptors in Alaska in response to a mounting threat from nuclear-armed North Korea, also made it apparent the US was likely to abandon the final phase of the Europe shield, which had envisaged upgraded SM-3 IIB "missile-killing" technology within about a decade.
An US official speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity at the weekend said the US contribution to the final phase of the European missile defence system "is being restructured due to congressional funding cuts and changing technology."
Having shed communism in 1989 before joining NATO in 1999 and the EU in 2004, Poland, a nation of 38 million has spent the last two decades updating its Soviet-era military hardware.
It is also the only EU member to have sustained growth amid both the global financial and eurozone crises, and spends round 1.95 percent of its gross domestic product on defence.
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