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Poland raises stakes for U.S. missile shield

By Gabriela Baczynska and Adam Jasser
WARSAW, Jan 9 (Reuters) – Poland’s new centre-right government will not agree to host a U.S. anti-missile site unless Washington commits to boosting Polish air defences, Defence Minister Bogdan Klich told Reuters.
Klich said he would discuss Poland’s demands, which also
include a higher level of military cooperation, with Defence
Secretary Robert Gates in Washington later this month.
“In Washington, I want to strongly emphasize the issues that
are of interest to the Polish side,” he said in an interview
late on Tuesday.
“The first of these is the accompanying (air defence)
package, without which, the Polish government’s consent for the
American installation is really difficult to imagine.”
Klich travels to Washington to meet Gates on Jan. 14-16.
The U.S. administration is seeking to deploy 10 rockets in
Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic as part of its
global “missile shield” against long-range ballistic missiles.
U.S. officials say the shield will protect the United States
and its allies from attack by what it calls “rogue” states such
as Iran and North Korea, or an al Qaeda-type organisation which
could in the future seize a nuclear weapon.
The plan has met fierce resistance from Russia, which says
the central European part of the shield would threaten its
security and upset the balance of military power in Europe.
Warsaw’s previous conservative government, which lost power
in October, said such arguments showed Russia had not given up
its imperial instincts towards central Europe.
Led by combative twins, President Lech Kaczynski and
ex-prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the conservatives had
refused to talk to Moscow on the issue, pushing relations
between the two countries to new lows.
Klich said his government was keen to repair ties with
Russia and would seek to convince Moscow it had nothing to fear.
He signalled, however, that occasional threats by Russian
generals to take unspecified “steps” in response to the shield
would not sway the Polish government.
“A dialogue with Russia is necessary to eliminate their
subjective sense of threat (from the shield),” he said.
Asked if Russian protests could tip the balance when the
final decision is made by Poland, Klich said:
“Personally, I can say the decision on the shield will be
taken in Poland and its main criterion will be the national
interest.”
PATRIOTS

Klich said the new government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk
would depart from the “done deal” approach of its predecessors
in future talks on the shield with the U.S. allies.
He said the government wanted the United States to bolster
Poland’s outmoded air defence capabilities with short- and
medium-range systems like the Patriot and THAAD rockets.
“The presence of a U.S. military installation in Poland
undoubtedly makes Polish airspace more vulnerable,” he said.
“I’m speaking about this in categorical terms because… this is
an essential part of Polish airspace security.”
Warsaw was also seeking a greater U.S. commitment to come to
Poland’s aid as part of NATO’s Article 5 multilateral defence
clauses, he said.
“The key issue would be to include Poland in the U.S.
defence system so that our American allies would have a much
stronger motivation… to come to our aid, should, God forbid, a
threat to our security arise,” he said.
Klich said that during his Washington trip he would also
hold talks with Democratic leaders in Congress to probe their
commitment to the missile shield, taking into perspective a
possible change of guard at the White House next year.
(Writing by Adam Jasser; Editing by Michael Winfrey)

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