Robert Burns / Associated Press & Ian Traynor / The Guardian – 2005-11-19 08:58:36
Washington Talking to Warsaw
About US Missile Base in Poland
Robert Burns / Associated Press
WASHINGTON (November 16, 2005) — US and Polish officials are discussing building a base in Poland from which US interceptors could shoot down long-range missiles as part of a global defence network, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.
It would be the first American strategic missile defence site outside US territory, and would be designed to defend all of Europe against intercontinental-range missiles – primarily those launched from the Middle East.
No decision has been made to proceed with a missile defence base in Poland and alternative sites in Europe are a possibility. But the Pentagon official said Poland appears to be the most likely host country for the kind of American military installation that would have been unthinkable before Poland joined NATO in 1999.
The official discussed the matter only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
The Pentagon has made no public announcement of its discussions with Polish officials, although it has made known its extensive consultations in recent years with NATO allies on the threat posed by ballistic missiles.
On Monday, Poland’s new prime minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, said he was opening a public debate on whether to host a US missile defence base.
He did not specifically say Washington was interested in installing ground-based interceptors of the sort that the Pentagon has recently installed in Alaska.
“This is an important issue for Poland, related to our security and to our co-operation with an important ally,” Marcinkiewicz said.
He leads a new conservative government in Warsaw that took office on Oct. 31. The previous government had expressed concern that missile defence co-operation with Washington could harm relations with Russia, which had opposed Poland’s decision to become a member of NATO.
The US military has no permanent bases in Poland or other Central and Eastern European countries formerly aligned with the Soviet Union. The US does have bases in former Soviet republics in Central Asia such as Kyrgyzstan.
US officials have been discussing with new NATO members Romania and Bulgaria the possibility of basing some US troops there as part of a repositioning of US forces around the world.
US officials have been considering a number of possibilities for extending the American missile defence network to include Europe, although most of the focus has been on defences against short-range missiles.
Long-range missiles are considered an emerging threat, in the view of Bush administration officials, because of the proliferation of technologies that would allow countries such as Iran and possibly Syria or Libya to build extended-range missiles. The threat is especially worrisome when coupled with nuclear warheads.
The current US defence system against long-range missiles is limited mainly to an installation at Fort Greely, Alaska, where at least six missile interceptors are in underground silos, linked to a command and control system. It is designed mainly to shoot down missiles fired at US territory from North Korea, with future expansion planned.
The Pentagon official who discussed the Polish option said that if a missile defence base were built there, it probably would be the only one needed to defend Europe against long-range missiles, although radars, other sensors and interceptors designed to combat shorter range missiles also would be needed for a complete defence.
The official estimated that a site in Poland would not be ready to begin operating before 2010. He offered no estimate on how much it might cost or when US officials were likely to make a decision to proceed. Also undetermined is whether the site would be controlled jointly by US and Polish forces or possibly with a NATO role.
© The Canadian Press, 2005
US in Talks over Biggest Missile Defence Site in Europe
Ian Traynor / The Guardian
WARSAW (July 13, 2004) — The US administration is negotiating with Poland and the Czech Republic over its controversial missile defence programme, with a view to positioning the biggest missile defence site outside the US in central Europe.
Polish government officials confirmed to the Guardian that talks have been going on with Washington for eight months and made clear that Poland was keen to take part in the project, which is supposed to shield the US and its allies from long-range ballistic missile attacks.
Senior officials in Prague also confirmed that talks were under way over the establishment of American advanced radar stations in the Czech Republic as part of the missile shield project.
“We’re very interested in becoming a concrete part of the arrangement,” said Boguslaw Majewski, the Polish foreign ministry spokesman. “We have been debating this with the Americans since the end of last year.”
Other sources in Warsaw said Pentagon officers have been scouting the mountain territory of southern Poland, pinpointing suitable sites for two or three radar stations connected to the so-called Son of Star Wars programme.
As well as radar sites, the Poles say they want to host a missile interceptor site, a large reinforced underground silo from where long-range missiles would be launched to intercept and destroy incoming rockets.
Under Bush administration plans, two missile interceptor sites are being built in the US – one in California, the other in Alaska. Such a site in Poland would be the first outside America and the only one in Europe.
“An interceptor site would be more attractive. It wouldn’t be a hard sell in Poland,” said Janusz Onyszkiewicz, a former Polish defence minister.
“This is a serious runner,” said a west European diplomat in Warsaw. “It’s pretty substantial. The Poles are very keen to have an interceptor site. They want a physical American presence on their territory. They wouldn’t be paying anything. It would be a totally American facility.”
“I knew about possible radar sites, but I was surprised to hear talk about missile silos,” said another source in Warsaw.
In the Czech Republic, too, the proposed radar site, extending to 100 sq km, could be declared extraterritorial and a sovereign US base.
The talks are at the exploratory stage and no decisions have been taken, officials stressed. US officials played down talk of central European participation in the missile shield. But the confidential nature of the negotiations, being led on the US side by John Bolton, the hardline under-secretary of state for arms control, has angered senior defence officials in the region, who have been kept in the dark.
Milos Titz, deputy chairman of the Czech parliament’s defence and security committee, learned of the talks last week and immediately called the defence minister, Miroslav Kostelka, to demand an explanation. According to the Czech web newspaper, Britske Listy, Mr Kostelka conceded to Mr Titz that the talks were going ahead and promised to supply details to the committee this week.
The committee is to hold an extraordinary session today, apparently to demand more information on the issue from the government.
According to a Washington-based thinktank, the Arms Control Association, the Pentagon has already requested modest funding for preliminary studies on a third missile interceptor site based in Europe.
Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defence Agency (MDA), told Congress this year of plans to construct a missile shield base abroad. “We are preparing to move forward when appropriate to build a third [ground-based interceptor] site at a location outside the United States,” he said.
In addition to Poland and the Czech Republic, the Washington thinktank reported last week that the US was also talking to Hungary about possible involvement in the missile shield which is yet to be properly tested and which many experts believe is unworkable. Sources in Warsaw said the US was also talking to Romania and Bulgaria. Last week, the Australian government signed a 25-year pact with the US on cooperating in the missile shield programme.
The two interceptor sites being built in Alaska and California are primarily to insure against a potential ballistic missile attack on the US by North Korea. The possible European site is being widely seen as a shield against missiles from the Middle East, notably Syria or Iran.
But many believe that any such facility in Poland would be concerned mainly and in the long term with Russia. Such concerns appear to be reflected in Polish government thinking.
While the Poles were still waiting for specific proposals from the Americans, said Mr Majewski, they were also insisting that any Polish participation had to be squared first with Moscow for fear of creating military tension in the region.
“The Americans are working quite hard on this,” he said. “They need to clear the path with the Russians and reach a consensus before we will move ahead.”
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