Poland to Accept U.S. Offer on Shield

Poland to Accept U.S. Offer on Shield

By Judy Dempsey

Poland, smarting after President Obama announced last month that he would scrap Bush-era plans to deploy an antiballistic missile system in Eastern Europe, will accept an offer to host parts of a new, more mobile, missile defense system, Polish officials said Tuesday.


The plan for so-called SM-3 missiles, first proposed in Washington last month, will be spelled out in more detail on Wednesday when Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. holds talks with leaders in Warsaw.


“The elements of this new missile defense system will be based in Poland,” said Mariusz Handzlik, the chief foreign policy adviser to the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, whom Mr. Biden is to meet Wednesday.


“This is very important for Poland, for NATO and the U.S. Above all, this is about the long-term strategic cooperation between the U.S. and Poland,” Mr. Handzlik said in a telephone interview.


Mr. Handzlik also said that the United States would supply Poland with ground-to-air Patriot missiles, which the Obama administration had pledged to do per an agreement between the Bush administration and Poland.


That had been a longstanding demand by Poland, which wants the missiles as part of a plan to upgrade its air defense. Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, who led the missile defense negotiations with the Bush team, has insisted that Washington abide by an accord signed in August 2008, under which the United States would supply Poland with the Patriot missiles in return for deploying the missile shield.


The SM-3 missile plan is seen by many analysts as a bid by the Obama administration to convince several Eastern European governments, including the Czech Republic, which also was affected when Washington dropped the old missile defense plan, that it is not turning its back on the region as it tries to improve relations with Russia. The offer could go a long way toward repairing relations with Warsaw and Prague, whose governments have been among America’s strongest allies in Europe but have increasingly felt snubbed by the administration.


“This is about the U.S. sweetening the bitter experience Eastern European leaders had when President Obama scrapped the missile defense plan,” said Petr Drulak, director of the Institute of International Relations in Prague.


Moscow has been a staunch opponent of the shield, asserting that the antiballistic missiles were directed against Russia, a claim that the United States has strongly denied. The Bush and Obama administrations have said that any defense shield was meant to protect Europe against a possible attack from Iran; for Poland and the Czech Republic, it was about increasing security vis-à-vis Russia.


The New York Times


Bookmark/Search this post with