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02 Apr 15. Poland will choose the supplier for its medium-range missile defence system in April, Deputy Defence Minister Czeslaw Mroczek was quoted as saying. Last year, Poland short-listed a consortium of France’s Thales and European group MBDA, as well as U.S. firm Raytheon, in its tender for the missile defence system.
“The (defence) minister’s decision on the choice of supplier … will be (ready) in April” Mroczek told Rzeczpospolita daily in an interview published on Thursday. (Source: Reuters)
31 Mar 15. German military no longer standing at ease as security fears grow. German general Lutz Niemann’s world has been transformed by the Ukraine crisis. A year ago, as chief of staff at the Nato outpost in the Polish port of Szczecin, he was serving in a backwater — the only one of nine command centres in Nato’s rapid deployment network without high-readiness status. “It made us a bit of the poor brother,” he says. Now, with Europe facing its biggest security challenge since the end of the cold war, the multinational base is on the front line — lying closer to Russia than any other Nato command centre. A high-tech operations room is being built, the base is doubling in size to 400 officers and it is racing to achieve high readiness by mid-2016. “Things have changed dramatically,” says Gen Niemann. Public opinion in Germany has also changed dramatically. Since the end of the cold war voters have been wary of military engagement, distrusting politicians’ calls for greater German participation in foreign missions such as Afghanistan, often because of ingrained fears over military adventurism born of the country’s Nazi past. Just before the Ukraine crisis erupted last March, Germans responded sceptically to an appeal from Joachim Gauck, the president, to stop using history as a “shield”. But the Russian threat to European stability has galvanised backing for a more active military. A recent YouGov poll showed 49 per cent support for increased defence spending, versus 36 per cent against. Christian Mölling of the Berlin-based SWP think-tank says: “We didn’t really understand about sending expeditions to other parts of the world. But this is the old narrative about the defence of our homeland.” After limiting defence spending for 25 years, Berlin will boost the military budget by 6 per cent over the next five years, starting with a €1.2bn increase next year to €34.2bn. The money will modernise equipment, boost depleted stores and finance big increases in German contributions to Nato, including the Szczecin base. However, political will and money alone will not turn Germany’s armed forces into an effective bulwark against possible aggression. Berlin faces organisational, logistical and technical challenges, including a difficult arms procurement programme. “It’s like turning around a battleship,” says Jana Puglierin, of the DGAP think-tank in Berlin. “The Kremlin’s behaviour has put the importance of the Nato defensive alliance before our eyes. We thought for years we would not need to defend our borders, but now the facts show otherwise,” says Henning Otte, parliamentary defence spokesman for chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU/CSU bloc. Ursula von der Leyen, defence minister and seen as a possible successor to Ms Merkel, has put Russia at the centre of her strategy. “The Kremlin’s new policy began long before the crisis in Ukraine and will occupy us for a very, very long time to come,” she said earlier this year, announcing a planned new defence white paper. She has a difficult starting point. The armed forces have been cut from 500,000 for the then West Germany alone in 1990 to 180,000 now. Conscription has gone. So has a vast battle tank fleet, the mainstay of cold wa