Talks on deploying US missile shield in Europe “failed”

March 13, 2009 at 9:24 pm Leave a comment

On March 9 the Veidas weekly magazine has published an article about the US missile shield in Europe.

The talks between the US, Poland, and the Czech Republic over the US antimissile defense shield, which lasted for eight years, have failed, and now the two countries are forced to calculate their financial and political losses.

“Russia is very pleased with the US’ determination to yield and to abandon the plans to deploy the antimissile defence shield in Central Europe” — this is how senior Russian Foreign Ministry officials responded to a secret letter that US President Barack Obama sent to Dmitry Medvedev. According to The Times, in the letter, an unexpected compromise was proposed: “We (the US) will abandon the antimissile defence shield plans, if you (Russia) will not to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad and will support our actions against Iran.”

However, the sharp change in the US position, which brought joy to some, seriously irritated others. “We were seduced and abandoned,” “the US betrayed not only us, but also its own convictions,” this is how the Poles and Czechs assessed the same development. They definitely have grounds for such an assessment.

Diplomats of the two Central European countries were negotiating with the US over deploying the antimissile defence shield on their territories for eight years – since 2001. At the end of last year, preliminary agreements were signed. They stipulated that by 2013 the US would deploy ten antimissile radars, worth approximately $4.5 billion. The talks were exceptionally hard, because, above all, they irritated Russia. Because of the talks, the ties between Russia and the two countries, which were not ideal to begin with, got even worse. After all, Russia viewed the antimissile defence shield, which was supposed to be directed against Iran, as a threat to Russia’s national security. Last year, Vladimir Putin threatened to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad and directed them at Poland.

Moreover, the antimissile defence shield issue divided the public in the two countries and reduced trust in the governments of those countries. Polls showed that approximately 50 percent of Poles and even 70 percent of Czechs did not support their governments’ talks with the US. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski was gloomy in talking about the situation: “We paid a hefty political price for the talks, and now it turned out all of this was unnecessary.”

“Many people were involved in the negotiations process, and now they fell disappointed or even betrayed,” Andrzej Jodkowski, head of the Polish branch of the US antimissile defence shield proponents’ alliance, said.

Would the Promises Be Kept?
By the way, the US promised not only to deploy the antimissile defence shield in the Czech Republic and Poland, but also to help and assist those countries in other ways. For example, the Czech Republic was offered closer cooperation with the US in the area of science, and Poland was promised the antimissile air defence system Patriot and a few US military units. Moreover, Poland was also supposed to receive financial assistance to modernize its military resources.

Now, however, as the US is changing its position on the necessity of deploying its radars in Poland and the Czech Republic, the two countries are in a limbo and do not know if the US will fulfil at least some of its earlier promises.

“The most important thing for us, the Poles, is to know whether the agreements with the US that were signed last year will be honored,” Polish Defence Minister Bogdan Klich said.

US officials assure that for now no agreements (not even the agreements related to the deployment of the antimissile defence shield) have been rescinded. “I would be surprised, if Obama’s administration simply withdrew the agreements that were signed between Poland and the Czech Republic and President George Bush’s administration,” Andrew Kuchins, head of the Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, said in trying to reduce tensions.

Obama No Longer Needs the Shield
Why did Obama change the US position on the antimissile defence shield so suddenly? After all, for Bush this was almost a priority issue, and his diplomats put in a lot of effort and energy into the talks with Poland and the Czech Republic.

The first hints that Obama was not too exited about the antimissile defence shield, or actually about the possibility of irritating Russia, were heard during the NATO defence ministers’ meeting, which was held in February in Krakow. During the meeting, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates mentioned that Washington was going to reassess the missile plan “in the context of the US’ ties with Poland and the Czech Republic as well as in the context of NATO’s relations with Russia.”

Second signal the US was having some doubts regarding the antimissile defence shield were heard during the Munich security conference, when Vice President Joe Biden said his famous phrase about “restarting” the ties between the US and Russia. Back then there was talk he had in mind possible negotiations between the US and Russia over the antimissile defence shield system, because Russian President Medvedev unexpectedly announced Russia was prepared to abandon the plans to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, if the US was also prepared to make a step toward a compromise.

Finally, last weak it was publicly announced about Obama’s letter to the Russian president. For now the plans to completely abandon the antimissile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic have not been confirmed or denied, but there are more and more signs that in the near future the shield will not be deployed here.

Source BBC Monitoring


Entry filed under: Baltic States, Central Europe, Estonia, EU, Latvia, Lithuania, Northern Europe, Poland, Politics, Russia, USA.

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