A closeup look at the U.S. air defense system near Ukraine
Norah O’Donnell – March 15, 2022
About 50 miles from Ukraine at an airport in Eastern Poland, a major show of American force is designed to deter Russian aggression. The U.S. has deployed two Patriot missile batteries, which are among the most sophisticated air defense systems in the world.
The weapon defeats threats by shooting them out of the sky.
“All of these missiles are designed to defeat tactical ballistic missiles, designed to defeat cruise-type missiles, as well as aircraft,” said the battery commander, who CBS News was asked not to name for security reasons. “Regardless of intentional or accidental, the system actually does not have the means of discriminating against those, it identifies threats and we have the ability of defeating those threats.”
The systems have been at this location for about a week, he said.
It’s not just the U.S. deploying Patriot missiles, Germany and the Netherlands are deploying them too as the war in Ukraine moves closer to NATO’s doorstep. A Russian missile hit a military facility just 15 miles from the Polish border on Sunday. Local reports say a suspected Russian drone was found in Romania last week.
The airport in Eastern Poland is also used as a way station for weapons going to Ukraine. On Tuesday, what appeared to be a convoy of trucks left the airport heading for the border.
The U.S. is moving more than weapons — there are now 100,000 U.S. troops operating in Europe for the first time since 2005, including those at the site of the Patriot batteries.
“We always are maintaining a high level of readiness,” Major General Gregory Brady, who is in charge of the Army’s missile defense systems throughout Europe, told CBS News. “They are here ready to defend against any type of aerial threats that could threaten NATO territory.”
“CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell traveled to the Ukraine-Poland border as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered the fastest refugee displacement crisis in Europe since World War II. O’Donnell shares firsthand accounts from Ukrainian refugees and looks at how NATO is preparing while Russia pushes the war in Ukraine close to Poland’s border in the 30-minute documentary “Norah O’Donnell Reports: Crisis in Ukraine,” premiering Friday, March 18, at 7:30 p.m. ET on the CBS News app.