WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland and the United States have agreed the legal details of deploying U.S. troops in Poland after lengthy negotiations, Deputy Defense Minister Stanislaw Komorowski said on Friday.
The “status of forces” agreement (SOFA) opens the way for deployments of a U.S. Patriot missile battery in Poland next year as part of plans to upgrade the NATO member’s air defenses.
“(Polish) Prime Minister Donald Tusk has accepted the result of the negotiations I conducted with the Americans,” Komorowski told Reuters.
Under the accord, due to be signed by the two sides on December 10, U.S. troops who commit any crime outside their base and outside their regular work would fall under Polish jurisdiction, Komorowski said. The deal also covers taxation of U.S. forces.
Poland, perturbed by Russia’s more assertive foreign policy, has long complained that it hosts no U.S. troops or major military installations despite a strong track record of sending troops to help in U.S.-led missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Patriot deal struck last year between Warsaw and the previous Bush administration and now backed by U.S. President Barack Obama envisages an armed Patriot battery being sent to Poland from Germany several times each year until 2012.
Polish forces would use the battery to upgrade their defense systems. Komorowski told Reuters earlier this year that a U.S. battery would be permanently based in Poland from 2012 and that Warsaw would also aim to buy its own anti-missile systems.
U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden visited Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania last month in an attempt to assuage their fears that the Obama administration was more concerned about ‘resetting’ ties with Russia than about regional security.
Tusk told Biden Poland was ready to take part in a revamped missile defense system. Officials say this could involve hosting SM-3 interceptors targeting short and medium-range missiles under the system, which replaces Bush-era missile shield plans.
Writing by Gareth Jones and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Louise Ireland