(by Nicholas Kralev and Andrew Borowiec, Jan. 16, 2008, WashingtonTimes.com) – The United States is headed for tough negotiations with Poland over a planned missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, with Warsaw now demanding that Washington pour hundreds of millions of dollars into improving its defense capabilities.
The Bush administration considered the deal almost done under Poland’s previous government, but the recently elected Prime Minister Donald Tusk has raised serious questions about the costs and benefits from the missile system for his country.
Mr. Tusk sent his defense minister, Bogdan Klich, to Washington this week to make the new government’s case. “We believe that the injection of American funds into modernization of our armed forces would balance the risk to our security linked to the construction of the base,” Mr. Klich told the Dziennik newspaper before leaving Poland.
Mr. Klich met yesterday with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates after holding talks with Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte on Monday.
“It’s a negotiation. We are allies, but even allies have negotiations,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. “They have a certain set of interests, and we want to talk to them about how, in the framework of these negotiations and our understanding, that we can accommodate their interests.”
U.S. officials did not say whether they would accept Poland’s new demands, but they indicated that the significance of the missile project for the administration would translate into flexibility during the negotiations.
“They have some domestic concerns which they are trying to address, while at the same time we are trying to figure out how to work with them to continue to move forward on what we believe to be a program of vital importance not just for us but really for Europe,” said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.
Mr. Klich said after his meeting with Mr. Gates: “We still in Poland do not see the right balance between the costs and the benefits of this installation.”
The $3.5 billion system known at the Pentagon as the Ballistic Missile Defense European Capability is intended to protect Europe and the United States against a limited intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile attack from the Middle East, particularly Iran.
The Bush administration wants to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland, for which it would have to build a base, and a radar installation in the Czech Republic.
But Mr. Tusk and other Cabinet members have said that hosting part of the system would make Polish air space more vulnerable.
“We feel no threat from Iran,” Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski told the Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza. “It is not the benefits but the risks of the system that have to be discussed fully. … We cannot carry the cost alone.”
Mr. Morrell said yesterday such statements “are not helpful.” He reminded the Poles that the United States was “instrumental in them becoming members of NATO.”
“They are the biggest beneficiary within Europe of defense aid. Nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars under the Bush administration has been provided to the Polish military in military aid,” he said. “And because of that special relationship, we believe that we can overcome whatever differences may exist on this issue very quickly.”
Another complicating matter for the U.S. is Mr. Tusk’s promise to repair relations with Russia, which have been strained since the end of the Cold War and particularly under the previous Polish government.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the planned installation of interceptors and radar sites in Europe as the start of a new arms race and suspended Russia’s participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty.
-Andrew Borowiec contributed to this article from Geneva.
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) Under Poland’s previous prime minister, an agreement had almost been made with the U.S. on a planned missile defense shield. What additional demands has Poland’s new prime minister made?
2. Why is the new Prime Minister making these additional demands?
3. What is the purpose of the Ballistic Missile Defense European Capability?
4. What is the Bush administration asking the Polish government to allow the U.S. military to do?
5. How much money has the U.S. already given to Poland in military aid under the Bush administration?
6. What might cause further problems between the U.S. and the new Polish government?
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