A Patriot air missile defence system unit. Picture: REUTERS
A Patriot air missile defence system unit. Picture: REUTERS

Warsaw — Poland signed a contract with the US for the first phase of a Patriot air missile defence system to soothe the Nato member’s concerns over Russia’s assertive stance in the region.

Under the $4.75bn deal, Poland’s largest weapons purchase, Patriot producer Raytheon will start deliveries of rockets and communication systems in 2022.

The agreement follows Monday’s expulsion of more than 100 Russian diplomats by 24 nations in response to a nerve-agent attack in the UK and President Vladimir Putin’s unveiling of new weapons, including nuclear missiles he said could evade US defences.

"It’s a historic moment. We’re fitting the Polish army with the most advanced defence system in the world," President Andrzej Duda said on Wednesday.

Warsaw is concerned about Russia’s expansive policy towards eastern Europe, whose countries shrugged off the Kremlin’s Soviet-era domination before most of them joined the EU and Nato.

Poland, which shares a border with Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave, hosts US troops on its territory and sees the missile system as a step towards strengthening the military alliance’s eastern flank.

Warm relations between Poland and the US have frayed in recent weeks after Warsaw passed a law criminalising suggestions that the Polish nation was responsible for any crimes during the Holocaust.

In December 2017, the US state department said a fine imposed by a Polish regulator on a US-owned news broadcaster for how it covered antigovernment protests in Warsaw "appeared to undermine media freedom". The penalty was eventually dropped.

"This deal cements the strategic partnership and common values between Poland and the US and boosts the security of central Europe," Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters in Warsaw.

On March 23, Poland signed two offset deals with Raytheon and Lockheed Martin to boost the involvement of Polish companies in return for buying the surface-to-air missile systems.

The 10-year service deal with Raytheon is worth 224.1-million zloty ($66m) and an agreement with Lockheed Martin for servicing installations and the maintenance of F-16 planes is worth 724.8-million zloty, the defence ministry said.

In phase one, Poland is getting two Patriot batteries of 16 launchers of PAC-3 MSE rockets. The second phase assumes Poland will get six more.