Polish, US leaders determined to move ahead on missile shield project

1110.jpgPolish President Lech Kaczynski voiced hope Monday (July 16th) that a US project to build a missile defence shield in Eastern Europe, which is fiercely opposed by Russia, will be completed successfully.

The plan, designed to provide protection for the United States and much of Europe from missile attacks by “rogue states”, such as Iran, envisions the deployment of ten ground-based interceptor missiles in Poland and a sophisticated radar system in the Czech Republic.

The project “is aimed at defence of our democracies against the countries who might have, or already do have, nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction”, Kaczynski said after talks with US President George W Bush in Washington.

US and Polish officials began negotiations on the proposed shield late last month. Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski says a deal could be reached by October and construction of the base could begin in February 2008.

While the agreement would require parliamentary approval, Kaczynski appeared confident Monday that the system will be put in place. “The matter of the shield is largely a foregone conclusion,” he told reporters at a news conference following his meeting with Bush. “The shield will exist because for Poland, this will be a very good thing.”

The two leaders discussed the shield in the context of talks on enhancing their countries’ mutual security.

“There’s no better symbol of our desire to work for peace and security than working on a missile defence system … that would provide security for Europe from single or dual-launched regimes that may emanate from parts of the world where leaders don’t particularly care for our way of life and are in the process of trying to develop serious weapons of mass destruction,” Bush said.

Russia, however, has voiced strong opposition to the US project, viewing it as a direct threat to its national security. It has threatened to retarget its missiles towards Europe if the US anti-missile facilities are installed in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Kaczynski’s visit came on the heels of a decree Saturday by Russian President Vladimir Putin, suspending his country’s participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which sets strict limits on the deployment of heavy weapons on the continent.

Speaking to The Washington Post on Monday, Kaczynski described Moscow’s decision as alarming, and said he asked Bush for assistance in ensuring Poland’s protection against future threats. Russia’s move “is not dangerous for the United States”, Kaczynski said, “but it is very dangerous for Europe. It is why it has been done in this way.”

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