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Poland to buy US rocket systems for $414 million

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo of a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS)

Poland says it is set to purchase artillery rocket systems worth $414 million from the United States as the two NATO allies seek closer military ties amid tensions with Russia.

The deal, which is due to be inked on Wednesday, will “significantly increase Poland’s army’s capacities,” Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Sunday, adding that the delivery of the mobile rocket launchers was expected by 2023.

The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) -- manufactured by US weapons giant Lockheed Martin -- can launch six guided rockets with a range of 70 kilometers, or a single missile with a 300-kilometer range.

The sale of 20 HIMARS launchers and related equipment to Poland was approved by the US State Department and Congress in November 2018.

In March last year, Warsaw already signed a $4.75 billion contract to purchase a US-made Patriot anti-missile system.

Poland has long hosted military forces from the US and other members of the NATO military alliance on a rotational basis. The right-wing administration in Warsaw has also been pushing for Washington to open a permanent military base on its soil as a “deterrent” against Russia.

NATO is running a “counter-espionage” hub in Poland amid tensions with Russia, which broke out after Crimea voted in a referendum to separate from Ukraine and rejoin the Russian Federation in 2014 amid a political conflict with Kiev.

The US-led alliance has since bolstered its presence in Eastern Europe on Russia's doorsteps, raising security concerns in Moscow.

The Warsaw-Washington deal comes amid fears of a new arms race fueled by Washington’s decision to suspend its compliance with the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with the ex-Soviet Union. Washington has even threatened to fully withdraw from the deal if Moscow does not stop “violations.”

Russia has denied the allegations, and said it could also exit the agreement, which bans nuclear-armed and conventional land-launched missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500km.

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