Polish Leader Upbeat On European Missile Defense
A key Polish leader said he expects the United States will meet Polish security concerns, as Poland considers hosting the proposed new site for the U.S. Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, a breakthrough drawing praise from Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee strategic forces subcommittee.
Franks also is co-chair and founder of the congressional Missile Defense Caucus.
Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski expressed satisfaction that the United States will deal with security problems, according to Franks.
The GMD system, encompassing in-ground silos with interceptor missiles in Poland, and a radar installation in the Czech Republic, would be the third GMD site. The other two are in Alaska and California.
Russia has blasted plans to install the GMD system, saying those interceptors would threaten Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). But President Bush and other U.S. leaders have ridiculed that assertion, saying there would be just 10 interceptors, versus hundreds of Russian ICBMs and nuclear warheads, and noting that the interceptors aren’t fast enough to catch Russian ICBMs. Bush also castigated Iran in his State of the Union speech. (Please see separate story.)
Russian leaders also threatened to use military strikes to annihilate any GMD system that might be constructed in Europe, drawing irate protests from Polish leaders who said that Russia was interfering in their affairs.
Rather than threatening Russia, Franks noted, the European GMD system would be designed to kill incoming enemy ballistic missiles launched from Middle Eastern nations such as Iran, aimed toward European cities.
Iran has tested multiple missiles at a single event, developed or acquired steadily longer-range missiles, and launched a missile from a submerged submarine. As well, Iran has refused to halt its nuclear materials production program, despite Russia moving to supply nuclear materials to Iran, causing Western observers to fear that Iran will use its materials to build nuclear weapons. Finally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be wiped from the map.
"I had the privilege to go to Poland in August, before their elections and political change, and meet with both Majority and Opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski," Franks said.
"I believed then that the Polish government would boldly, bravely, and prudently agree to work with the United States to host the ten interceptors that will be part of the European Missile Defense site, in order to defend Europe, our NATO allies, and America from the Iranian nuclear missile threat."
And now, Sikorski is indicating that will occur, according to Franks.
"Mr. Sikorski has picked up the torch from his predecessor and has demonstrated that he will lead his country with wisdom and courage," Franks said. "The Polish people have for far too long been the subject of threats from their unfriendly neighbor. They deserve to be able defend themselves, to defend NATO countries, and to cooperate with their ally, the United States.
"I welcome the Polish people in the great venture to build a multi-layered defensive system, so that we will no longer live in a world where there is no defense against the nightmare of a nuclear attack," Franks stated.
Czech leaders also have said they think an agreement can be worked out with the United States. At this point, no final agreements have been signed.