U.S. deploys missiles in Poland, may dampen relations with Russia

U.S. deploys missiles in Poland, may dampen relations with Russia
# 26 May 2010 20:40 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. A battery of U.S. Patriot missiles and more than 100 soldiers have arrived in Morag, north-western Poland, prompting concern from Russia, APA reports quoting “Xinhuanet”.
The move will have lasting impact on security in the region and may dampen the United States and Poland’s relations with Russia, analysts say.
The Morag base is only 60 kilometers from Poland’s border with the Russian western enclave of Kaliningrad, prompting Russia to voice its concerns and confusion over "the logic and orientation of the cooperation between the U.S. and Poland in this field."
"Such military activity does not help to strengthen our mutual security, to develop relations of trust and predictability in this region," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Poland has insisted the base was not chosen for political or strategic reasons, but simply because it already had good infrastructure.
However, it is a move that gets Warsaw the alliance it has wanted with the United States, especially as it involves the Patriot defense missiles, a weapon of much symbolic significance.
The strengthening of short- and medium-range air defense was a condition set by Poland during negotiations on Poland’s participation in the U.S. anti-missile defense program.
It also marked the first time U.S. soldiers have been based in Poland since the end of the Cold War.
The arrival of the U.S. missiles and soldiers came after the ratification of the U.S.-Poland Supplemental Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) by the eastern European country at the start of the year.
Under the agreement, the Patriot battery has been deployed in Poland, first temporarily and later permanently. In the future, Poland will also host a base of SM-3 missiles, part of the ballistic defense system.
The American soldiers will be based in Poland on a rotational basis. They will help train Polish soldiers on the advanced missile system.
The alliance with the United States and the military presence will also help raise Poland’s profile at the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
However, the move has also been criticized by some in Poland who fear it could lead to moves by neighboring Russia that might mean a larger threat to the eastern European country.
In September last year, the Obama administration proposed a new missile defense plan to replace an earlier Bush administration strategy that would have installed a U.S. missile interception system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Obama initiated a "phased, adaptive approach" to the plan in Eastern Europe, saying that such as plan would provide "stronger, smarter and swifter defenses of American forces and America’s allies."
The revision, or rather, refinement, does not mean the U.S. government is dropping its voiced strategic aims of protecting its European allies from what it sees as a threat from Iran.
A report submitted by the U.S. Department of Defense to the Congress said Poland and the Czech Republic would play important roles in the new plan.
"President Bush was right that Iran’s ballistic missile program poses a significant threat. And that’s why I am committed to deploying strong missile defense systems which are adaptable to the threats of the 21st century," Obama said in September last year.
Although Washington has not said its missile defense plan in eastern Europe was to contain Russia, Moscow is nevertheless concerned.
Russia has spoken against the move in the past several days. Some said the deployment could dampen the United States and Poland’s relations with Russia, even though Obama earlier vowed to "press the reset button" with Moscow to repair their bilateral relations.
The same can be said of the relations between Russia and Poland. Sergey Bulychev, chairman of the Duma of Kaliningrad, said it was politically irresponsible of Poland to deploy the Patriot missiles when the relations between the two neighbors had been improving recently.
It is seen as inevitable that Washington and Moscow, moving ahead, will find differences on issues of strategic interest. The further souring of bilateral relations has been stopped in the past year primarily because both sides have avoided issues where there are conflicts of strategic interests.
It is hard to rule out the possibility of Russia restoring its plan to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad or taking other countermeasures if efforts for compromise fail.