Missile Debate Blows Up
November 23, 2005 By W.Ż.
Poland's participation in the American strategic missile defense system has become more likely. However, some warn that the plans concerning the basing in Poland of radar or even missile silos for launching interceptor missiles is a risky undertaking, both militarily and politically.
President Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said Nov. 14 that no decisions had been made yet concerning Poland's participation in the American defense program providing for establishing the National Missile Defense (NMD) shield. Marcinkiewicz said that the government had embarked on a relevant discussion that was expected to "continue for quite a long time."
In the opinion of many observers, however, the U.S. administration will soon make the decision concerning the location of the base to form part of the strategic missile defense system. The U.S. State Department declared Nov. 14 that Washington would welcome the allies' participation in the American project. It has been discussed with interested Central European countries since 2002. The consultations with Poland appear to be the most advanced, according to U.S. sources.
Construction of the third base-located in Europe-is planned by the Pentagon to start in 2006. Poland competes for building the system with countries including the Czech Republic and Hungary. Poland was invited by the United States to participate in building the shield a few years ago. At first this involved the location of radar systems, but there has been more talk of placing one of the three interceptor missile bases in Poland-as the only base of this kind located outside the United States. There are two others located in Alaska and California-each has 10 underground silos. They constitute part of the NMD shield system now being mounted by the United States. The system is supposed to detect missiles deployed in various locations around the world and in space, and subsequently shoot them down. Polish opposition politicians have criticized the government's idea to promptly engage in cooperation within the framework of the NMD program. To the astonishment of many, the Polish government's declaration concerning the issue was included in an addendum to the prime minister's policy speech delivered in the Sejm Nov. 10. Deputy Sejm Speaker Bronisław Komorowski, once a Civic Platform (PO) candidate for the position of defense minister, called that declaration premature and ill-considered. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Adam Rotfeld warned that such a situation might harm Poland's relations with both Russia and its European Union partners. "Poland's participation in the program of building anti-missile shields will expose Poland as a target," said Gen. Bolesław Balcerowicz, former president of the Academy of National Defense, adding that Poland's participation might also cause animosity towards Poland, not only on the part of Russia, but also Western European countries, which are more cautious towards the American initiative. In Balcerowicz's opinion, the system will have no influence on increasing Poland's security. "The NMD concerns America, as the country needs eyes to detect missiles targeting it. Although we would not be able to detect missiles targeting us," said Balcerowicz.
Some Polish research institutions and production plants, however, pin hopes on building the NMD system. Warsaw's Industrial Telecommunications Institute, which makes radar systems, confirmed in May 2003 that it had signed an agreement on cooperation in the project with Boeing, the missile defense program provider.