(by Jon Ward, March 11, 2008, WashingtonTimes.com) – Missile defense negotiations between the U.S. and Polish governments will move forward after both sides appeared to make key concessions yesterday during talks between President Bush and Prime Minister Donald Tusk at the White House.
Mr. Tusk, who took power after elections last fall, said Mr. Bush agreed to discuss modernization of the Polish military during negotiations on missile defense.
The U.S. position had been that military assistance would be discussed separately.
“We came to a conclusion … that the missile defense system and the modernization of the Polish forces — as well as the reinforcement of the global security system, which also influences the Polish security system — that all these issues come in one package,” Mr. Tusk told reporters in the Oval Office.
“This is really something which gives us very much good hope for the future,” he said.
Polish officials appeared to have dropped demands that the United States commit to defending Poland, outside NATO, in the event of an attack.
“It appears that both sides are meeting each other halfway,” said Julianne Smith, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Before Mr. Tusk’s visit, Ms. Smith said, observers speculated that he might “come to Washington with a long list of demands” and that his ascendancy to the Polish leadership might result in “an infinite number of delays” to missile defense talks.
Although Mr. Tusk’s announcement yesterday was short on details, “the important thing is that the wheels are turning again and there is a chance for this system to be finally agreed upon before the president leaves office, which is very important to him,” Ms. Smith said.
The United States wants to post 10 interceptor systems in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic to defend Eastern Europe against attacks by rogue regimes, such as Iran. Russia sees the system as a threat and opposes it.
Poland agreed to allow U.S. interceptor missiles on its soil, but asked for help in improving its air defenses against midrange missiles.
“Poland can imagine a scenario where Russia would strike the system. That seems unrealistic to us but it seems possible to the Poles,” Ms. Smith said.
The White House yesterday rejected the notion of a Russian attack on the system.
“When [Mr. Tusk] talks about air defenses, it’s that their systems, they feel, are not modern, and that they want to modernize it,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. “But no one was talking about Russia attacking Poland. If that is a concern of the Polish government, I’ll refer you to them and they can talk about that.”
Copyright 2008 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com.
1. a) Who is the Prime Minister of Poland?
b) What was the purpose of the Prime Minister’s meeting with President Bush yesterday?
2. What does the U.S. want to do in Poland and the Czech Republic?
3. What does the Russian government think about the U.S. plan?
4. When Poland’s prime minister took office in November, the U.S. had almost finalized an agreement with the previous Polish government for the missile defense plan.
a) What requirement did Polish officials have that they dropped during talks with President Bush yesterday?
b) What did the U.S. agree to do that was not part of the original missile defense negotiations?
THE U.S. MISSILE-DEFENSE SYSTEM:
The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use ground-based and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The SDI was intended to defend the United States from attack from Soviet ICBMs by intercepting the missiles at various phases of their flight.
The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD), that assumed that neither side would start a nuclear war because it would not be able to avoid imminent destruction. Reagan’s “Star Wars” program drew the Soviets into a costly effort to mount a response. The race depleted Soviet funds and triggered the economic difficulties that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Read a detailed report on the U.S. Missile Defense System at heritage.org/Research/MissileDefense/bg1798.cfm.
Read a previous article on U.S./Polish negotiations here.
For background information on Poland, go to the CIA World FactBook website here.