WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s defense minister on Wednesday signed a deal to buy a second batch of U.S Abrams main battle tanks as Warsaw beefs up its defensive capabilities and strengthens military cooperation with Washington in light of Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine.
Officials said Poland is the first U.S. ally in Europe to be receiving Abrams tanks.
Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak signed the $1.4 billion deal at a military base in Wesola, near Warsaw. The agreement foresees the delivery of 116 M1A1 Abrams tanks with related equipment and logistics starting this year.
“We are strengthening Poland’s armed forces, we are strengthening the iron fist of the Polish army in order to increase the power to deter the aggressor,” said Blaszczak, who is also a deputy prime minister.
He said cooperation between Poland and the U.S. is strengthening the security of the entire region and especially of the eastern flank of NATO.
Attending the signing ceremony were U.S. deputy chief of mission in Poland Daniel Lawton and U.S. Brig. Gen. John Lubas, deputy commander of the 101st Airborne Division, elements of which are stationed in southeastern Poland close to the border with Ukraine.
Lawton said the U.S-Poland partnership “has never been more important” and that the tank deal was part of U.S. President Joe Biden’s pledge to provide “our strongest and most reliable military capabilities to Poland on an urgent basis.”
The deal follows last year’s $4.7 billion agreement for the acquisition of 250 upgraded M1A2 Abrams tanks that will be delivered in 2025-26. Poland is also awaiting delivery of U.S. HIMARS artillery systems and has already received Patriot missile batteries.
Poland has also signed other, multibillion dollar deals for the urgent purchase of tanks, howitzers and fighter jets from South Korea. The first delivery of tanks and howitzers arrived in December. Some of the weapons will make up for arms Poland has already given to Ukraine.