Poland US Signed Missile Defence Base Deal Upsets Russia

US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and her Polish counterpart have signed a deal to build a missile defence base in Poland.

The agreement prompted an infuriated Russia to warn of a possible attack against the former Soviet satellite.
Rice dismissed comments from Russian leaders, who say Warsaw’s hosting of 10 US interceptor missiles just 186km from Russia’s westernmost frontier opens the country up to attack.

Such comments “border on the bizarre, frankly,” Rice said, speaking to reporters in Warsaw.

“When you threaten Poland, you perhaps forget that it is not 1988,” she said. “It’s 2008 and the United States has a… firm treaty guarantee to defend Poland’s territory as if it was the territory of the United States. So it’s probably not wise to throw these threats around.”

The deal has strained relations between Moscow and the West, ties already troubled by Russia’s invasion of its former Soviet neighbour, US ally Georgia, earlier this month.

“The Russians are losing their credibility,” said Rice.

Rice and Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski signed the deal yesterday morning.

“It is an agreement which will help us to respond to the threats of the 21st century,” she said afterwards.

Polish prime minister Donald Tusk said the agreement came after tough but friendly negotiations.

“We have achieved our main goals, which means that our country and the United States will be more secure,” he said.

After Warsaw and Washington announced agreement on the deal last week, top Russian general Anatoly Nogovitsyn warned that Poland is risking attack, and possibly a nuclear one, by deploying the missile defence system, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported. Poles have been shaken by the threats, but Nato secretary general Jaap de Hoop dismissed them on Tuesday as “pathetic rhetoric”.

“It is unhelpful and it leads nowhere,” he said at a Nato meeting in Brussels, Belgium.

Many Poles consider the agreement a form of protection at a time when Russia’s invasion of Georgia has generated alarm throughout Eastern Europe. Poland is a member of the European Union and Nato, and the deal is expected to deepen its military partnership with Washington. Polish president Lech Kaczynski also expressed “great satisfaction” at the outcome of the long months of negotiations.

Poland and the US spent a year and a half negotiating, and talks recently had snagged on Poland’s demands that the US bolster Polish security with Patriot missiles, in exchange for hosting the missile defence base. Washington agreed to do so last week, as Poland invoked the Georgia conflict to strengthen its case. The missiles are meant to protect Poland from short-range missiles from neighbours — such as Russia.

The US already has reached an agreement with the government in Prague to place the second component of the missile defence shield — a radar tracking system — in the Czech Republic, Poland’s southwestern neighbour and another former communist country. Approval is still needed by the Czech and Polish parliaments.

No date has been set for the Polish parliament to consider the agreement, but it should face no difficulties in Warsaw, where it enjoys the support of the largest opposition party as well as the government.

Source – Irish examiner


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