On June 12, while Russia was celebrating a national holiday, the presidents of the United States and Poland, Donald Trump and Andrzej Duda, signed a joint declaration on defence cooperation, which included, among other things, the deployment in Poland of a reconnaissance squadron of grimly-named MQ-9 Reaper strike drones. These multifunctional UAVs have already proved themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, naturally, they cannot but strengthen the defence capabilities of Poland. Although, to be more precise, they will reinforce the positions of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), which was slightly shaken during the European Parliamentary elections, demonstrating this party’s readiness to do everything possible to protect Poland from the alleged Russian threat.
In principle, the deal is equally beneficial to both Warsaw and Washington. It fits perfectly into the concept of “security export,” which Trump declared at the beginning of his presidency, because the Polish side will pay the lion’s share of the cost to maintain high-tech military innovations. In turn, in the run-up to the autumn parliamentary elections, PiS will demonstrate to voters its concern for the country’s security and the high role of Poland in the European arena, because Washington is not ready to engage in a direct dialogue with every country. It should be noted that a part of conservative Polish voters sincerely believes in an absolutely unrealistic scenario of direct Russian invasion.
As for the objective danger of this UAVs squadron for Russia, many questions arise. The MQ-9 is a very functional drone for local conflicts, but it has never been opposed by modern electronic warfare systems (EW) and air defence systems. Moreover, Reapers have not been widely used in direct armed conflicts between developed countries, as there haven’t been any. It is possible that in the event of a hypothetical global conflict, their use will not be effective, as modern EW tools will render drones into useless pieces of iron within a few minutes. However, their deployment in Poland and “training flights” along the Russian borders will allow the Americans and their allies to understand what the latest products of their defence industries can counter-pose against Russia, what reconnaissance tactics involving the use of UAVs work best against the Russian armed forces, and how to circumvent the air defences of the Russian Federation. However, Moscow is unlikely to show all of its cards.
The drones are much more effective to “catch fish in muddy water.” In case of a hypothetical “Maidan” in Belarus or civil unrest initiated by anyone in the Kaliningrad region (and so strong that the army infrastructure will be partially paralyzed), MQ-9 will become an effective means of intelligence and support for one of the parties. Let’s not forget that the Reapers were effectively used, for example, to eliminate al Qaeda leaders (banned in Russia), and in addition that they are very effective means of intelligence.Meanwhile, everyone can be happy. Washington exports the promised security, Warsaw shows concern for the country’s defence, Moscow will soon be able to test its ability to effectively counter MQ-9 reconnaissance missions. Unfortunately, it all happens at the cost of another increase of tension at the Russian borders.