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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » September 16, 2009
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Shield Dream Over?
September 16, 2009   
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The future of the planned U.S. missile shield will be decided in the next month. There are signs that Barack Obama's administration may abandon the idea and that the agreements signed with Poland and the Czech Republic last year will exist on paper only. The deal for deployment of a U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense system base in Poland, signed Aug. 20, 2008, called for a launcher for 10 intercepting missiles to shoot down enemy long-range missiles in mid-flight. Washington had earlier signed a similar agreement with the Czechs on building an early-warning radar on Czech territory. The combined systems were meant to form the European component of the BMD, the aim of which was to protect the United States and Europe against attack from Iran, a country that is attempting to build long-range missiles.

Donald Tusk's government hesitated before signing, believing that the threat to Europe from Iran was not as great as the United States believed and that having an anti-missile shield in Poland would cause extra tensions in relations with Russia. The Russian government has protested for several years against the deployment of a base in Poland, claiming it would be directed against Russia. Washington has rejected this argument, pointing out that 10 interceptors cannot constitute a significant threat to Russia's huge arsenal of strategic nuclear missiles.

In view of Russia's threats, the Polish government demanded that the United States provide extra safeguards to accompany the shield, mainly by strengthening Poland's air defenses. These came in the form of a declaration on strategic cooperation signed at the same time as the shield agreement. Under this, Poland is to temporarily receive a battery of U.S. Patriot defense missiles which protect against short-range missiles. It was disclosed in June, however, that the two countries had different interpretations of the declaration: the United States has said Poland will receive missiles for training purposes only.
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