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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » September 30, 2009
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U-Turn on Missile Shield
September 30, 2009   
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The United States and Poland will remain close allies even after President Barack Obama's decision to drop plans for a missile defense shield in Central Europe, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told the media after a telephone conversation with Obama Sept. 17.

The U.S. administration has decided that the land-based missile defense system planned by the Bush administration for Poland and the Czech Republic will be scrapped in favor of a ship-based system. The U.S. administration's decision to drop the missile shield plan is an autonomous decision of the United States that did not involve the Polish government, Tusk told reporters after talking to Obama.

After Obama's statement that the shield plan is being dropped, the time will come for the specifics of a new U.S. proposal for Poland, Tusk said. He added that Obama signaled to him in their call that "Poland has a chance to gain an exclusive position" in the new system. According to media reports, that could be through an American commitment of U.S. Patriot missiles being placed in Poland.

Tusk said Obama's proposal is not a "defeat" for Poland, and the alternative strategy should not affect the security of Poland or of Europe.

According to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the United States will create a new anti-missile defense system to replace the missile shield plan. The new system would be deployed mainly in northern and southern Europe, and would be based on missiles fired from submarines. Bases with intercepting missiles would be set up in Poland and the Czech Republic "in the future."

U.S. diplomatic and military delegations arrived simultaneously in Poland and the Czech Republic Sept. 17 to officially tell these countries' authorities that the shield plan had been dropped. Obama also talked over the phone with the Czech prime minister.

The U.S. administration's decision to scrap the missile shield plan has generated extensive debate in Poland. The rightist opposition from Law and Justice (PiS) accused Tusk's Cabinet, in particular Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski and the prime minister himself of "squandering a historic opportunity" involving the presence of a U.S. base in Poland. President Lech Kaczyński, a fervent supporter of the shield, voiced a similar view, though in milder terms.

On the other hand, the leftist opposition, led by the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), welcomed the U.S. administration dropping the missile shield plan, arguing that the move would help improve Poland's relations with Russia.
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