Poland signs US “missile shield” deal; Russia pledges “punishment”

The Polish government signed a deal Aug. 14 to host a 10 interceptor missiles at a site along Poland‘s Baltic Sea coast as a part of the US “missile shield” plan. The site, staffed by US forces, would complement a US radar installation to be based in the Czech Republic. Washington says those facilities, to be operational by 2013, would complete an anti-missile system already in place in the US, Greenland, and Britain. In return, Poland will receive “enhanced security cooperation”—most significantly, a separate missile defense system for its own armed forces. A US Patriot missile battery is to be relocated to Poland from Germany for this purpose, to be initially operated jointly with the US. (NYT, RFE/RL, Aug. 15)

Although the US insists the “missile shield” is intended to protect Europe form “rogue states” like Iran, the move has drawn an angry response from Russia. “When one party agrees to host [a foreign facility], of course, it assumes certain responsibilities. And we’re talking about a military facility in this case, so there is additional [responsibility],” said Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Russian general staff. “Certainly, any facility is the target—excuse me, I mean the subject of the interests of another country. So, of course, one has to be careful with that. A bordering country always makes it its priority to strike such installations [in case of conflict]. So, it is not simply—it cannot go unpunished from the point of view of [its] military use and so on.” (RFE/RL, Aug. 15)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last month that “these installations…only worsen the situation. We will be forced to respond adequately.” That was before the current crisis over Georgia, which has strained US-Russian ties further. US and Polish officials refused to say whether the Georgia crisis helped to spur the signing of the deal.

See our last posts on nuclear fear and the “missile shield.”