Bush Persists On Placement Of European Missile Defense

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 17, 2007

President Bush pushed forward yesterday with plans to deploy missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe in defiance of Russian objections, just days after Moscow announced that it will pull out of a major arms control treaty in what was widely seen as a retaliatory move.

Bush met with Polish President Lech Kaczynski at the White House to confer about the missile defense project, which would station 10 interceptor missiles on Polish soil and build a sophisticated radar station in the Czech Republic. Kaczynski vowed to move ahead with the system despite Russian threats to target missiles at Poland, but he asked Bush for security help.

"There's no better symbol of our desire to work for peace and security than working on a missile defense system . . . that would provide security for Europe from single- or dual-launched regimes that may emanate from parts of the world where leaders don't particularly care for our way of life and are in the process of trying to develop serious weapons of mass destruction," Bush told reporters in the Oval Office alongside Kaczynski.

Addressing Russian concerns, Kaczynski emphasized that the system is intended to give protection from rogue states, not Moscow's overwhelming nuclear arsenal. "It is aimed at defense of our democracies against the countries who might have, or already do have, nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Bush made no mention of Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal this month to join together to build a missile defense system that would abandon plans for facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic but instead rely on a Russian radar system. Nor did he mention Russia's subsequent decision to suspend compliance with the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, announced Saturday.

But Kaczynski said in a later interview with The Washington Post that the move was alarming and that he sought assistance from Bush to guard Poland against future threats. "It is not dangerous for the United States," Kaczynski said of the Russian move, "but it is very dangerous for Europe. It is why it has been done in this way."

Kaczynski, whose parliament must still approve the U.S. plan, noted that the missile defense system would not be useful against the shorter-range missiles that Moscow has threatened to deploy in the Russian region of Kaliningrad, next to Poland. "Poland must strengthen its security system," he said. He said he talked with Bush about ways to do that but would not comment on whether he sought sophisticated U.S. short-term missile defense batteries. "I wouldn't like to get into details about that."


© 2007 The Washington Post Company