German Patriot air defence units intended for NATO territory, Berlin tells Warsaw

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Berlin clarified on Thursday that the Patriot air defense units it has offered Poland are intended for deployment on NATO territory, countering Warsaw's calls for the system to be sent to Ukraine.
"These patriots are part of NATO's integrated air defence, which means they are to be deployed on NATO territory," said Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht in Berlin.
"Any use outside of NATO territory would require prior discussions with NATO and allies," she added.
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Berlin offered Warsaw the Patriot missile defense system to secure its airspace after a stray missile crashed in Poland last week, killing two people.
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Wednesday he had asked Germany to send the Patriot fire units to Ukraine instead.
"Following further Russian missile attacks, I asked Germany to transfer the Patriot batteries offered to Poland to Ukraine and to station them on its western border," Blaszczak wrote on Twitter.
On Monday, Poland announced that it would propose deploying additional Patriot missile launchers near the Ukrainian border.
Ground-based air defense systems like Raytheon's Patriot are built to intercept incoming missiles.
But systems are in short supply in NATO, as many post-Cold War NATO allies reduced their numbers to reflect the assessment that henceforth they would only have to deal with a limited missile threat from countries like Iran.
This perception changed drastically with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which prompted NATO allies to increase stockpiles of ammunition and fix deficiencies in the air defense system.
Germany had 36 Patriot units when it was a NATO frontline state during the Cold War, and even then it relied on support from NATO allies. Today, German forces have shrunk to 12 Patriot units, two of which are stationed in Slovakia.
(Reporting by Rachel More and Sabine Siebold, editing by William Maclean)

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