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WASHINGTON – Secretary of State John Kerry met with Polish foreign minister Wiltold Waszczykowski Wednesday, one week after a $5 billion arms deal with the Slavic nation landed in limbo when the newly-elected conservative party in Warsaw demanded a lower price.
In preparation for NATO’s July summit in Warsaw, John Kerry and Waszczykowski huddled at the U.S. State Department discuss mutual security interests, including the fight against ISIS and curbing potential Russian expansion.
At a State Department photo op, Kerry noted the importance of Poland’s role as host of the summit, where the primary focus is likely to be bringing stability to the Middle East and resolving the on-going territorial dispute between Russia and Ukraine.
“The United States and the NATO allies stand strongly together in furtherance of full democracy, in furtherance of full respect for the sovereignty and integrity of international borders and the rights of countries to be free from external interference from other countries,” Kerry said.
Poland’s opposition to Russian expansion has long made the Slavic nation one of the United States’ strongest allies in Central Europe. As the conflict along the Russian-Ukrainian border drags on, Poland has relied on the U.S. defense industry to support its missile defense systems.
Last year, Poland’s centrist government struck a deal to buy missiles from Raytheon Patriot, a U.S. defense company, for a hefty $5 billion. However, after the conservative Law and Justice party won control of Poland’s parliament in October, the new government demanded a lower price, sending the deal into limbo.
This deal will likely be a central discussion point in the meeting between Waszczykowski and Kerry. The secretary of state called the relationship between the two nations’ defense industries “a very solid economic rock” on which the alliance was based.
The shared security interests between the U.S. and Poland also extend into the Middle East.
On Monday, the Polish president Andrzej Duda agreed to deploy a small number of F-16 warplanes to aid in the fight against ISIS. Calling the terror group a “difficult problem for our civilization,” minister Waszczykowski promised that strategies to combat the so-called Islamic State will be a central theme of the summit in Warsaw.
The outcome of the NATO summit have the potential to significantly sway the extent of Poland’s contribution to the fight against ISIS.
The Polish defense minister Antoni Macierewicz has signaled that his country may press its action in the Middle East, possibly even sending ground troops, if NATO’s provides a strong response to the Russian threat on its eastern border.