Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Victoria Samson, "Missile defense in Poland a frivolous move," Center for Defense Information, October 8, 2008.

  ...weapons that don’t work against a threat that doesn’t exist.

Reports of Russia lobbing SS-21 ballistic missiles at Georgia only underlined what missile defense supporters took from Iran’s series of missile tests earlier this summer: there is a missile threat, and the U.S. missile defense system is the best way to handle it. They are wrong on both counts. But with the United States having finally worked out agreements with the Czech Republic and Poland to host parts of the system, the wheels have been set in motion for a huge U.S. foreign policy blunder that could have long-term and grave consequences.

After months of delays, the United States and the Czech Republic signed an accord in July that allows for deployment of American radar in the Czech Republic as part of the U.S. plan for establishing a European missile defense site. A secondary accord followed two months later that establishes the legal status of U.S. troops on Czech territory. Both accords must now be approved by the Czech parliament, something that is questionable since well over two-thirds of the Czech population opposes them. In fact, the antipathy of the Czechs toward missile defense cooperation is so strong that it has sparked the biggest activist campaign since the time of Vaclav Havel.

Prolonging its talks with the Czech Republic, the United States has been courting Poland for the past year and a half to host 10 missile defense interceptors. The Poles, feeling unappreciated for their support in Iraq and worried about Russia’s response, insisted on expensive increases to their air defense systems if the interceptors were to be fielded on their territory. This stalemate held until Russian tanks rolled into Georgia. Within days, the Polish missile defense negotiator had been fired and a deal was struck where the United States agreed to field one Patriot battery in Poland and to come to Poland’s aid should there be any advances on its territory. This agreement will soon be presented to Poland’s legislature.

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