Missile defence system, did Lithuanians betrayed Poland?
Probably most of you heard about the anti-missile defence plan for Europe. In short anti-missile radar should be deployed in the Czech Republic, and an interceptor base in Poland. The Czech Republic has already said it will allow deployment of radars in its territory, however talks are still in the works with Poland on the interceptor base.
As the BNS reminds Washington wants to equip special platforms for ten interceptor missiles in Poland. In exchange for its approval, Poland would like for the US to help modernize the Polish Armed Forces, i.e. equip them with anti-aircraft defence systems Patriot-3 and THAAD.
However, the Time announce yesterday; ‘U.S. plans for a missile defence system (MDS) in Europe could be delayed well beyond the 2013 target because Defence Department experts say the interceptors have not been adequately tested.’ This must be a big blow not only for President Bush but also for the Central Europe and for the Baltics. Well Poland and Lithuania in particular.
Further more, the last week brought some confusion between the strategic allies of Lithuania and Poland over the planned MDS in Poland. The USA, the other strategic ally of the both countries caused this confusion all together.
As the BNS wrote the Polish Foreign Vice-Minister Wasczykowski claimed last Wednesday that the US is holding talks with Lithuania over potential deployment of elements of an anti-missile shield in its territory in case talks with Poland on the issue were discontinued. The Polish official also claimed that the Lithuanian Minister of Defence, Mr Olekas himself offered the Americans Lithuania as an alternative to Poland.
Once the news from Poland reached Lithuania the official denunciations of the fact of negotiations between the US and Lithuanian followed.
PM Kirkilas stressed, “Lithuania is not holding any talks”. Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Vaitiekunas claimed, “No official negotiations on the project are being conducted. Informal conversations take place on a daily basis on various levels.” However, as the BNS noted that the minister refused to discuss whether Lithuania would volunteer as an alternative to Poland, if the US failed to agree with the Lithuanian neighbouring country.
The Minister of Defence Mr Olekas also assured that “There are no talks. We are not speaking on this issue”. However he added, “If we received such proposal, we would have to weigh the pros and cons”. He said the US senior negotiator John Rood assured Lithuanian leaders about the course of the negotiations with Poland during his visit in Vilnius in May. Furthermore the minister stated; “We are observing the process because the anti-missile defence shield is important for the safety of Europe, the United States and Lithuania. We hope that our partners in Poland and the US will successfully close the talks”.
It is unclear what actually happened, however the Lithuanians have a saying ‘there is no smoke without a fire’. It seems that the Americans themselves leaked to the Lithuanian media about the Mr. Rood’s visit to Vilnius in May. Most likely the purpose of that was to push the Poles to accept the deal proposed by Washington regarding the MDS in Poland.
I am not sure if such tactics will work. But it is certain that the Poles feel betrayed by the strategic partners in Vilnius and this will have its consequences in the future relations between Lithuania and Poland. We also could be sure that the Russians will retaliate against Lithuania, they might start with further increase of the gas prices which are already more expensive that to Germany. There could be more moves to disrupt the new nuclear plant project in Lithuania also. I am sure the Russians have much more under the sleeve.
As the Time noted ‘It would mean vital decisions would have to be put off until long after a new president takes office in January – either John McCain, who strongly supports missile defence, or Barack Obama, who has been more sceptical.’ Hence, it seems that all that fire was burned for nothing; however, the smell of smoke might stay for a very long time.