After 18 months of talks, the United States and Poland have agreed a deal to site America’s controversial missile defence shield on Polish soil. It is certain to aggravate tensions with Russia, as Moscow sees the system as a threat to its security.
The negotiations seemed stuck in July but a compromise was reached just as Russia moved into South Ossetia.
As part of the deal, Washington finally agreed to provide Poland with more military hardware, a step welcomed by Prime Minister Donald Tusk: “The negotiations were really tough, but friendly and finally successful. This is because you are a friend, Secretary Rice. We have achieved the main goal.”
To counter claims the deal was struck as a response to Russia’s action in Georgia, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said the shield is meant to deter so-called rogue states or militant groups: “Missle defence of course is aimed at no-one. It is in our defence that we do this. But I am very pleased that we have been able to achieve this.”
Following the fighting in Georgia, surveys show a turnaround in Polish public opinion in favour of the shield, accompanied by a sharp rise in worries about Russia. Many Poles have come the shield as a form of protection beyond NATO.
The missiles themselves will be placed at the former Warsaw Pact military base at Redzikowo in northern Poland, more than 1,000 kms from Moscow and 300 kms from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea coast.
The ten interceptor rockets in Poland will be controlled by a radar complex sited in the Czech Republic.