In Poland, Obama looks to improve relations with key military ally
President Obama arrived in Poland Friday for the final leg of his European tour on a visit that will focus on military ties between Washington and Warsaw.
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The Poles weren't completely pleased either. The Patriots are to be first rotated in from Germany and only for "training" (meaning without warheads). One disgruntled Polish deputy defense minister is reported to have fumed, "We don't need garden planters." After 2012, however, the Patriots are set to become permanent and fully armed.
The US military footprint could expand even further if Obama and President Bronislaw Komorowski announce as expected the rotation of F-16 jets to Poland. The planes would be used for training purposes only, but Mr. Wisniewski says the agreement would have "symbolic" meaning.
"Poland already has 48 of its own F-16s, and these F-16s will be rotated in and used only for training purposes. But the agreement is a sign of deepening ties between the US and Poland, and, ultimately, it is good for Poland's security," Wisniewski said.
Obama and Polish leaders could also discuss Poland's role in the revamped missile shield, including plans to place SM-3 interceptor missiles in Poland.
Moscow is likely to be watching closely especially after the May 3 announcement from Washington and Bucharest that Romania – which already is home to four US military bases – would host interceptor missiles and up to 500 US soldiers at a southern naval base as part of the European defense shield.
The Kremlin criticized the Romanian deal, accusing Washington of pressing ahead with its missile shield plans despite promises of cooperation with Russia.
While in Warsaw, Obama and Polish officials are also expected to discuss Poland's potential shale gas riches and the impact they could have for energy security in Europe, which is trying to diversify its energy sources and break free of Moscow's near energy stranglehold on the region.
A recent US Energy Information Administration report estimates that Poland has recoverable shale gas resources of 5.3 trillion cubic meters, the largest of any European state studied and equal to over 300 years of Poland's annual gas consumption.
US Ambassador Richard Morningstar, Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy, told a recent conference in Warsaw that "Poland has a chance to become a leader in the shale gas revolution."
ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and ExxonMobil are among firms that received licenses for prospecting unconventional gas in Poland, according to Polish media reports. According to the German magazine, Spiegel, France and Germany are backing Polish shale drilling efforts as they face strong opposition on the issue in their respective countries due to the environmental risks associated with shale drilling techniques.
IN PICTURES: G8 summit in France 2011