Poland to Await Obama Decision on Placing Missile Defense System in Europe

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 20, 2008

Poland's foreign minister said yesterday that his country will wait for the Obama administration to make up its mind on basing missile defense interceptors in his country and will not lobby to have the project proceed.

Saying that the Warsaw government had agreed "out of friendship" to the Bush administration proposal to establish a U.S. base for 10 interceptor missiles in Poland, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski added: "We will tread carefully and wait until the new administration makes its decision."

The controversial European basing plan, which also involves placing a U.S. radar unit in the Czech Republic, is to be part of a broader missile defense system that the Bush administration has said is designed to intercept Iranian missiles aimed either at U.S. or European targets. Russia has voiced strong objections to the plan.

Sikorski's remarks, made during an appearance at the Atlantic Council of the United States, a bipartisan foreign policy organization, reflect the modification of a statement posted Nov. 8 on the Web site of Polish President Lech Kaczynski. The statement said that during Kaczynski's conversation congratulating Barack Obama, the president-elect said that "the missile defense project would continue."

In response, the Obama campaign released a statement saying that no commitment had been made. Instead, Obama foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough said, Obama "supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable."

Congress has delayed work on construction of the Polish missile site, awaiting in part the successful testing of the interceptor missile to be based there. That test is not scheduled to take place until 2010.

Sikorski said his government "would like to see the project continue" because it is evidence of U.S.-Polish cooperation.

He also said that the presence of U.S. bases in a foreign country creates a bilateral arrangement that "adds sinews" to any defense treaty, noting that Poland has been a member of NATO for almost 10 years and has nothing more than the promise of a conference center. "Everyone agrees," he said, "that countries that have U.S. soldiers on their territory do not get invaded."

Sikorski also called for NATO to revitalize its military arrangements in the wake of Russia's invasion of Georgia and its potential threat to Ukraine. "The post-Cold War order is being challenged," he said, adding that there is "a need to make the NATO guarantee valid again."

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