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4 Jul, 2008 11:26

Poland rejects U.S. plans for anti-missile shield

Poland has refused to station ten interceptor missiles on its soil as part of a U.S. plan to deploy an anti-missile shield in Eastern Europe. However, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk believes the negotiations will continue.

“We cannot give our consent now or tomorrow or in a month for that matter because this deal involves our security. We will be waiting until the U.S. provides firm guarantees of our country’s security. We do not intend to speed up or slow down the talks. We are open for cooperation,” Tusk said.

The United States says the system is to counter possible attacks from what it calls rogue states, like Iran.

Russia has been strongly opposing the move, insisting such countries as Iran don't have weapons that could reach Europe.

“The request from the Polish side, as far as I am informed, was $US 20 billion in order to re-equip the Polish national defence system and the American side proposed $US 200 million – 100 times less than the Polish side requested. It is not enough for the Polish side so I believe it is more about the money rather than considerations of how it will influence the security climate in Europe,” said Konstantin Kosachev, the Head of Russia's State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee.

Putin's alternative

The U.S. announced its plans to deploy elements of its missile defence shield in Europe late in 2006. Washington wants to deploy two bases: a site with ten interceptors in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic.

Prague has already announced its readiness to sign an agreement in July, although the majority of the Czech population is against the U.S. radar station.

Washington says the goal of the missile shield is to protect the United States and Europe from possible attacks by rouge states such as Iran.

Russia has strongly opposed the U.S. plans from the very beginning despite numerous U.S. statements that the project is not aimed against Russia.

“This is in no way shape or form that changes the strategic balance between the US and Russia,” believes Lt. Gen. Henry Obering Director of the Missile Defense Agency.

According to Moscow, having a missile shield close to the Russian border poses a threat to both national and world security.

“This initiative has little to do with announced intention to neutralise the threat coming from Iran. In reality, this is a process of expansion of an American strategic system to Easter Europe for the first time in history,” said Russian FM Lavrov .

At the G8 summit in Germany last year the then Russian president Vladimir Putin proposed an alternative to building missile bases in Europe.

Under it, Russia and the United Stated could have jointly operated Gabala radar base that Russia leases from Azerbaijan. But no significant breakthroughs were made in this direction.