By John Helmer [originally published on Dances with Bears]
Following the joint US-Polish military attack on the Nord Stream pipelines off Bornholm Island in the Baltic, Poland has announced it is escalating the war in Europe with an announcement by President Andrzej Duda.
Speaking under a NATO flag in a Warsaw press interview, Duda announced: “the problem is that we don’t have nuclear weapons. There is no indication that in the near future, as Poland, we will have it under our jurisdiction. There is always a potential opportunity to participate in the Nuclear Sharing program. We have spoken with American leaders about whether the United States is considering such a possibility. The topic is open.”
The banner on this week’s cover of Gazeta Polska and the headline on its website read: “Poland in Nuclear Sharing. The topic is open.”
The meaning of the Polish president’s word otwarty is that the US Navy’s Aegis Offshore missile base at Redzikowo, in northern Poland, may be armed with nuclear warheads aimed at the Kremlin less than twelve minutes’ flying time away. In March Pentagon officials announced they were preparing to test the radar and other systems for targeting and firing these weapons at the Polish base. They did not say when “full operational capability” would be ready. They did say the Aegis missile base at Devezelu in Romania is already operational, as well as the US Navy vessels based at Rota in Spain, which operate in the Black Sea.
This, President Vladimir Putin, has repeatedly warned for several years is a red line for the survival of Russia. The Poles have now crossed.it.
In May 2016, when the Romanian base became fire-ready, Putin said: “If yesterday in those areas of Romania people simply did not know what it means to be in the cross-hairs, then today we will be forced to carry out certain measures to ensure our security.”
US nuclear weapons in Poland targeting Russia are “a core security interest” in the treaties of non-aggression which the Russian Foreign Ministry proposed to the US and to NATO on December 17. They were rejected by Washington and Brussels at the start of February.
The US press is claiming “a White House official said they were unaware of the issue being raised and referred further questions to Poland’s government.”
In Duda’s press statement, he did not distinguish between the Redzikowo missile base role of intercepting and defending against incoming missiles from Iran – the official cover story since the base plan was agreed — and the role of launching attack missiles against Russia. The omission is significant.
Instead, Duda claimed “this would not be a nuclear weapon under the control of Poland. Participation in nuclear sharing does not imply having your own nuclear weapon”. Nuclear sharing, Duda went on, “must be viewed in terms of the distant future, I firmly believe that Poland will strengthen its security. That must be our long-term goal.”
In a New York Times assessment of the Redzikowo missile capabilities in February, NATO was reported as claiming “the site lacks the software, the hardware and infrastructure needed to launch offensive missiles.” The newspaper added: “Some independent experts, however, believe that while requiring a rejiggering of software and other changes, the MK 41 launchers installed in Poland and Romania can fire not only defensive interceptors but also offensive missiles. Matt Korda, an analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, said that ‘without visual inspections, there is no way to determine whether or not this Tomahawk-specific hardware and software have been installed at the Aegis Ashore sites in Europe.’”
In February 2019, Putin repeated the red line warning. “Some of these missiles can reach Moscow in just 10–12 minutes. This is a very serious threat to us. In this case, we will be forced, I would like to emphasise this, we will be forced to respond with mirror or asymmetric actions. What does this mean? I am saying this directly and openly now,” Putin announced, “so that no one can blame us later, so that it will be clear to everyone in advance what is being said here. Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapons that can be used not only in the areas we are directly threatened from, but also in areas that contain decision-making centres for the missile systems threatening us.”
“What is important in this regard? There is some new information. These weapons will fully correspond to the threats directed against Russia in their technical specifications, including flight times to these decision-making centres. We know how to do this and will implement these plans immediately, as soon as the threats to us become real. I do not think we need any further, irresponsible exacerbation of the current international situation. We do not want this.”
“What would I like to add? Our American colleagues have already tried to gain absolute military superiority with their global missile defence project. They need to stop deluding themselves. Our response will always be efficient and effective.” For analysis, click to read.
The map does not show the deployment of US Navy nuclear-armed Tomahawk missiles off the Russian coast, in the Black Sea. The warheads for these weapons and vessels are stocked at the Rota naval base in Spain, according to open sources; they may be secretly stored at the Souda Bay naval base in Crete, Greece, following ratification of a new Greek defence agreement with the US in May of this year.
Nuclear-armed US Navy vessels were last in the Black Sea in November and December 2021: the USS Mount Whitney, a fleet command, control and intelligence platform, and USS John Lenthall, an oiler, between November 3 and 15; the USS Arleigh Burke between November 25 and December 15.
The Mount Whitney was operated in the Black Sea, off the Russian coast, during the Kiev putsch in February 2014. It can coordinate air, land and sea missile launches with US and NATO detection systems and command centres in Poland, Germany, and Brussels. The Arleigh Burke is armed with ready-to-fire nuclear Tomahawk missiles.
Following the start of the Special Military Operation on February 24, Turkey announced it was closing the Bosphorus Straits to all warships, including the Russian and US navies. No US vessel has entered the Black Sea this year; sixteen Russian vessels have transited the Straits moving northward to base; two have transited south and remained outside the Black Sea.
No trace can be found of the White House official who has reportedly denied Duda’s announcement.
Instead, the White House press release archive indicates that on September 4, Vice President Kamala Harris, in a telephone call with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, “reaffirmed the enduring strength of the U.S.-Polish relationship and efforts to bolster our collective security, including the permanent stationing of the U.S. Army V Corps Headquarters Forward Command Post in Poznan, which President Biden recently announced as the first permanently-stationed U.S. force presence on NATO’s Eastern Flank. The Vice President also discussed opportunities to enhance bilateral cooperation on civil nuclear power generation in Poland.”
When Harris met Duda in Warsaw in March, she forced him to backtrack on his scheme to send Polish Air Force fighter jets to challenge the Russian Air Force in action in the Ukraine. It had been the idea of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his deputy, Victoria Nuland, to back the Polish intervention – with US-trained Ukrainian pilots in the Polish cockpits – and swap US F-16s into the Polish Air Force immediately, and at a discount to the contract price the Poles had already agreed to pay.
Blinken had announced “we are working with Poland as we speak to see if we can backfill anything that they provide to the Ukrainians.”
Prime Minister Morawiecki issued a public disclaimer:
The US Vice President then denied there was “any daylight” between the US and Polish governments on their Ukraine warfighting plans. At the time, Poland proposed delivering some or all of the 23 Polish Air Force MiG-29 aircraft to the Ukraine; the US refused on the ground that this move would directly engage NATO in the war against Russia. Duda added in front of Harris: “We have to look at these [moves] not only through our own lens — through the prism of the security of Poland — but we also have to adopt the perspective of the security of Nato as a whole. So in a nutshell, we have to be a responsible member of the North Atlantic alliance. We behaved in such a way as a reliable member of Nato should behave — a member of Nato who does not want to expose Nato to any difficult situation.” Duda claimed his government’s MiG-29 proposal was for “possibilities” of placing the MiG-29s “at the disposal” of Nato.
Blinken sent his spokesman to the State Department press office yesterday afternoon to issue a carefully pre-worded statement to save face, his own and Duda’s, and to conceal the truth. The US official was asked by a reporter wearing a Polish and European Union flag badge, to “confirm or expand” on Duda’s statement that “there are ongoing talks with the US about including Poland in the nuclear sharing program”. Reading from a script below camera level, the spokesman said: “So first, as it relates to your to your question on Poland, I er ah want to take a step back and and note that er Poland is an important er NATO ally in the region. Ah but as it relates to this specific request, we are not ah ah aware of this specific ah ah item being ah er raised. Ah, and I can say that the United States has no plans ah to deploy a nuclear weapon on er NATO member territory that had joined NATO ah post-1997.”
Disagreement between Duda and Morawiecki, their personal staffs, and the Polish intelligence and military chiefs, has been escalating over how far to go across Putin’s red line. Among them there appears to have been private recriminations over the Polish role in the Nord Stream attacks ten days ago, and over who in Warsaw gave the secret order. The sudden resignation of Duda’s intelligence staff chief, Pawel Soloch, revealed on October 4, was a signal of this.
In Polish party politics, Duda and Morawiecki direct the country but they do not lead the Law and Justice (PiS) party which holds the parliamentary majority until next year’s election. The PiS leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, has told Polish Radio: “if the president has some additional knowledge on this issue, which I do not have, that the road is open, then of course I completely support it, I think it would be a very good solution.”
In March Kaczyński had said he “would like Poland to have a nuclear weapon” but admitted that “this idea is unrealistic”. Kaczyński is the leading anti-Russian figure in Polish politics. He was the de facto leader of the Polish delegation which met the Ukrainian leadership in March.
He and the PiS campaign staff have been unable to lift the party’s voter support level in months, according to this source; the PiS was leading the opposition Civic Platform (PO) by an 8-point margin, 36% to 28%, on September 26. Other Polish polls indicate more volatility, with the PO ahead 29.2% to the PiS 23.8% with rising right-wing nationalist sentiment driving the war talk.
Duda, Morawiecki and Kaczyński are threatened by what independent political analysts in Warsaw are calling a concerted campaign by the US and German governments, in league with the European Commission in Brussels, to replace them at the next election. Attacking Germany under the Baltic and then launching the threat of a US nuclear missile from Redzikowo are both strikes against the Polish opposition.