Missile Defence Shield Back on Agenda
With negotiations on forming a new Polish government still underway, the deputy chief of the American mission in Poland, Kenneth Hillas, called for a continuation of negotiations on the Missile Defence Shield System, which is to include one base in Poland and one in the Czech Republic.
Hillas spoke about this issue during his meeting with students of the University of Silesia on Oct. 29 in Katowice. He underlined the fact that while the negotiations began with Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s government, the U.S. Embassy also discussed this subject with opposition parties, including Civic Platform (PO). Civic Platform won the Oct. 21 elections and is now forming a government with the party chairman, Donald Tusk, as prime minister.
“I expect that when the new government led by Mr. Tusk is formed it will review the situation and we will resume our talks,” Hillas said. He also tried to convince the audience that the Anti-Rocket Shield, as it is called by Polish media, will increase security not only in the U.S. but also in Poland and throughout Europe.
Americans have negotiated the issue already with three recent Polish governments, but the most important questions ? such as the location of the U.S. Army base, the covering of the costs and the legal status of American personnel in Poland ? remain unresolved.
The atmosphere of the negotiations is also influenced by Russia, which strongly opposes the project. The Missile Defense Shield would consist of two bases. A radar base would be located in the Czech Republic, and the Polish part would be a rocket base equipped with 10 sets of Interceptor anti-ballistic missiles.
The task for the system would be to detect and destroy long-range missiles launched in the Middle East region, especially in Iran.
The project should cost American taxpayers about $1.5 bln. According to Hillas, U.S. personnel in Poland would number 200 to 300 people, mostly civilians.
According to Polish media, the most probable base site would be an old military airport in the village of Redzikowo near the city of Slupsk on the Baltic Coast.
If the negotiations conclude relatively quickly, the defense shield should be operational by the end of 2012.
However, two weeks ago U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates proposed to Russia to delay the opening of the bases until there is “definitive proof” of a missile danger from Iran.
And last week in the U.S. Congress, Democratic Rep. John Murtha, head of the House appropriations defense subcommittee, warned that the George Bush administration would not receive its requested $310 mln for the missile shield as planned for next year’s budget.
If the negotiations with the new Polish government don’t progress quickly, this may even result in cancellation of the missile program.