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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » September 3, 2008
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Deal on Missile Shield
September 3, 2008 By W.¯.    
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After months of talks, Poland and the United States have struck a deal on building an American "missile shield" base in this country-sparking anger from Russia, which warned Poland could become a target for a nuclear strike.

Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed an agreement in Warsaw Aug. 20 to build a U.S. base in Poland equipped with 10 non-nuclear anti-ballistic interceptor missiles as part of the U.S. global missile defense system.

Washington, meanwhile, agreed to support Poland's efforts to modernize its armed forces. It also agreed to deploy a battery of Patriot system missiles in Poland, and by 2012 to set up a permanent garrison for the battery, which is to be maintained by the Americans.

Initially, Poland may be protected by a temporary Patriot missile battery stationed in Germany. In the longer term, Polish politicians are counting on six batteries, or a total of 96 Patriot missiles in this country; Poland will be able to purchase the other five batteries on preferential terms.

The missile shield base agreement will be put to parliament for ratification, and has to be signed into law by the Polish president. This is likely to be a formality-in the lower house the ruling coalition of the Civic Platform (PO) and Polish People's Party (PSL) has enough seats to ensure the deal is approved, while the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party is known to be a fervent supporter of a U.S. military presence in Poland. PiS has frequently attacked the government for taking too long to reach a deal with the Americans. Any objection from the left-wing Polish opposition will be only symbolic.

No problems are expected with the president approving the deal. During the signing ceremony President Lech Kaczyński did not conceal his satisfaction, describing the agreement as a "breakthrough" and a "historical" moment for Poland. Prime Minister Donald Tusk voiced a similar opinion.

Washington says the system is designed to protect the U.S. and its allies against missile attacks from "rogue" countries such as Iran. But the signing of the agreement on the deployment of missiles in Poland caused outrage in Moscow, despite repeated assurances by Warsaw and Washington that the system is not aimed against Russia.

Senior Russian politicians and top military commanders warned that Warsaw's decision would cause Poland to become a Russian military target. "Poland has placed itself on the list of Russian targets for a nuclear attack," thundered Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Russian army. President Dmitri Medvedev warned of a "military reaction" to the presence of a U.S. army base in Poland, which the Kremlin says is a threat to Russia. Experts say it is likely that some Russian missile launchers will be relocated closer to Poland's borders.

Containing a preamble, 19 articles, one appendix and a map of the base, the agreement signed with the Americans regulates issues such as the base's construction and maintenance; its command structure, including the roles of Polish and U.S. commanders; rules of access to the base; cooperation between various bodies in Poland and the United States on the base's security; rules on using the interceptor missiles; environmental and health regulations; the financial obligations of both countries; and areas of responsibility related to using the system.

Poland will retain sovereign rule over the site. Polish law will apply on the base, which will be placed under Polish command, and a permanent Polish military unit will be stationed there. In addition, the Polish commander will have access to all zones at the base.

The agreement obligates the United States to guarantee Polish security and to defend it against any ballistic missile attack using the entire U.S. missile defense system. It also says the United States will develop a contingency plan with Poland, specifying what actions will be taken in case of a threat to the base's security. The provisions also guarantee Poland will have a hand in drawing up the rules on using the missile defense system and describe the range of data Poland will receive from the entire system-the same level as the other allies cooperating with the United States as part of the system.
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