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Analysts Hail Polish Moves Toward Accepting U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Unit

By | February 11, 2008

      But Involving The European Union Could Kill Defense Shield Plans

      Approval Needed Soon, Before Bush Leaves Office Next Year

      Polish steps toward accepting the U.S. proposal to install a Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) unit in Europe are welcome news, analysts at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, said in a paper Friday.

      The GMD system would involve a radar in the Czech Republic, if the Czechs agree, and silos with interceptor missiles in Poland. Congressional funding for the Missile Defense Agency to install the GMD gear in Europe is contingent on the Czechs and Poles agreeing to the deal.

      "News that Washington and Warsaw have come to an agreement in principle on fielding 10 interceptors in Poland as part of America’s missile defense system in Europe marks a positive development for transatlantic relations and international security," the Heritage paper stated.

      A shield is needed because European nations, and U.S. troops there, increasingly face a threat from missiles based in the Middle East, the paper stated.

      President Bush has pointed to Iran as posing a growing danger, with longer-range missiles and production of nuclear materials, and Sally McNamara, senior policy analyst, and Peter Brookes, the Chung Ju Yung fellow and senior fellow for national security affairs at the Heritage, made a similar argument.

      "President Bush is correct in asserting that the need for missile defense in Europe is both real and urgent," the Heritage paper stated.

      "The number of nuclear weapons states is increasing, as well as the number of states with ballistic missiles. Iran’s announcement … of a space program, which could feed a long-range missile program, does not help matters. The United States has rightly decided that it must never leave itself vulnerable to any weapons system or state and that comprehensive missile defense will protect the homeland, its troops deployed abroad, and its allies."

      Iran has fired multiple missiles in a single test, fielded steadily longer-range missiles, and fired a missile from a submerged submarine. Too, Iran has refused world-wide demands that it cease producing nuclear materials, which Western leaders fear will be used to build nuclear weapons. Also, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be wiped from the map.

      The paper argues that Europe and U.S. troops there must not be left vulnerable if Iran produces nuclear-tipped long-range missiles.

      "A comprehensive missile defense system offers protection to America, its forward deployed troops, and its allies," the paper stated.

      "The placement of interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic would bolster transatlantic security, protecting both the United States and Europe from the growing threat of long-range ballistic missiles and the unconventional payloads they may carry," according to the paper.

      But, the Heritage paper continues, nothing can be done until the Czechs and Poles provide a final agreement to host the GMD third site, which would be in addition to the GMD sites in Alaska and California.

      "In order to begin construction, the administration must now seek final agreements with Warsaw and Prague and expedite fulfillment of the" current fiscal 2008 defense budget, referring to the ban on use of funds until Bush receives final consent from the Czech Republic and Poland.

      $720 Million Needed

      The Heritage paper also urges Congress to fully fund Bush’s request for $720 million for GMD construction, a request he made in his fiscal 2009 federal government budget proposal.

      In the heritage paper, McNamara and Brookes base some of their optimism on comments from a key Polish leader.

      "After a protracted period of negotiations over fielding a missile defense system in Europe, the announcement by Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, that ‘the impasse in the negotiations over the anti-missile shield has been broken,’ represents something of a diplomatic breakthrough," the Heritage analysts stated.

      That statement "moves toward a final deal after a significant period of stagnation, during which the new administration of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has found its feet," the paper continued.

      But no final deal is yet in hand, and some difficult hurdles may remain ahead, the analysts cautioned.

      "The road ahead will not be an easy one," they warned. "Minister Sikorski, in office for just three months, has made it clear that Poland intends to extract financial and security guarantees from the United States, additional to its existing arrangements under the NATO alliance."

      And that could involve some significant funding and security commitments by the United States.

      "The U.S. must take these requests seriously, which among other things will likely include a petition for [Patriot Advanced Capability-3] PAC-3 batteries to bolster Polish air defenses," the paper observed.

      And it recommends that Washington should step up to the plate and meet the Polish needs.

      "In the face of increased Russian animosity and intimidation, Washington has already invested considerable financial and political capital in its bilateral alliance with Warsaw and it should continue to do so," the paper recommended.

      Helping to upgrade the Polish armed forces would be a sound move, the paper asserted.

      "The modernization of the Polish military presents a win-win opportunity for Washington and Warsaw," McNamara and Brookes stated.

      After all, the paper continued, Poland is one of the few nations stepping up its support of the war in Afghanistan.

      "Poland is proposing to send an additional 400 troops to Afghanistan at the end of April, at a time when older NATO members such as Germany are not pulling their weight and others are reconsidering their commitment to the mission," the Heritage paper observed.

      "The United States must use the negotiations over missile defense to shore up its broader bilateral relationship with Poland."

      Russia: Bellicose Bully

      The paper notes that Russia has reacted in rage to the GMD European installation plans.

      Russian leaders have threatened to use military force to annihilate any GMD installations if they are built, threatened to target European cities in a throwback to the Cold War, and threatened Poland.

      "Moscow has been vociferous in insisting that a European missile defense system is a serious threat to Russian interests," the paper recalled. Russia said the GMD system, instead of being a shield against missiles from the Middle East targeting European cities, could be used to bring down Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBMs].

      And "the Russian Defense Ministry stated that Russia may restructure its military presence in Kaliningrad, on the border of Poland and Lithuania, in response to missile defense plans for Eastern Europe," the paper noted. "Russian President Vladimir Putin has even drawn parallels between the plans for an Eastern European missile shield and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which saw the Soviet Union and the United States go to the brink of nuclear war." Putin also said U.S. moves to create the GMD system may ignite a new arms race.

      Bush and Pentagon leaders have scoffed at the Russian protests, saying they are groundless.

      And the paper agrees. "Russia’s objections hold little water," the paper noted. "A hypothetical Russian land-based nuclear strike on the United States would not be launched on a trajectory over Poland, but would fly toward its American targets over the North Pole, or Iceland and Greenland, depending on the targets. Furthermore, according to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the proposed kinetic kill vehicle designated for deployment in Poland is simply not fast enough to catch a Russian land-based intercontinental ballistic missile in a tail-chase scenario. The Polish-based interceptors would also have no capability against Russia’s sea- or air-based nuclear deterrence capabilities."

      The paper thus disputes claims by Ted Postol, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, that U.S. GMD interceptor missiles might be able to knock down Russian ICBMs.

      As well, the paper hold out little optimism that Russia and the United States will reach a working agreement about placement of the GMD system, although Russia has offered to provide radar data streams to help the GMD system detect and counter incoming rockets from the Middle East.

      "Despite multiple offers and counter-offers between Washington and Moscow over missile defense, Washington must recognize that reconciliation is extremely unlikely," the paper predicted. "Russian anxiety is more likely about the placement of the system in what it perceives as its old stomping grounds, rather than any real strategic concerns. Ultimately, neither Washington nor Moscow will abandon its position for or against the planned Eastern European sites. Unless America is prepared to let Moscow dictate American security policy, it must tell Moscow that they will have to agree to disagree. It must also send the message that Russian intimidation of a key ally and NATO partner will not be tolerated."

      European Union Politics

      On another point, the paper warns that permitting the European Union to become involved in the GMD dispute would, likely, kill any chances that the defensive missile shield could become a reality.

      "The European Freedom Alliance Party in the European Parliament is reportedly calling to make missile defense in Eastern Europe an EU issue.

      "This is bad news.

      "The supranational European Union is a bureaucratic, statist, cumbersome, anti-American entity that has attempted to frustrate American policy on multiple occasions. The involvement of the EU is unnecessary and would effectively kill any hope of a deal."

      Therefore, EU involvement must be fought, vigorously, the paper stated. "Poland, the Czech Republic, and the United States must give zero consideration to involving the EU at any level."

      That EU involvement is unnecessary is shown by the laissez faire approach of NATO, the paper pointed out. "For its part, NATO has generally considered the Washington-Warsaw- Prague talks to be bilateral and has not interfered. Also, NATO has expressed general support for European missile defenses, especially against short- and medium-range missiles. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer stated after the April North Atlantic Council meeting: ‘There is absolutely a shared threat perception between the allies. Allies all agree that there is a threat from ballistic missiles.’"

      Not only did the paper approve of NATO’s hands-off stance on the GMD shield against longer-range missiles, the paper also backed NATO moves to erect its own shield against short- and medium-range threats.

      "NATO’s developing interest in missile defense is a good thing; it should ultimately complement America’s missile defense program in Eastern Europe," the paper observed. "There is no reason to believe that simultaneous development of missile defenses in Europe by both NATO and the U.S. would be incompatible in the long-term."

      Time Is Running Short

      But the paper warns that time is running short to get final approvals lined up for the GMD system.

      "Washington, Warsaw, and Prague will need to invest considerable political capital and demonstrate real leadership to pull off a final deal before President Bush leaves office," the paper warned. He will step down from office when his successor is sworn in next January. "It is essential they do so," the paper urged.

      Many U.S. political analysts say that with Bush’s popularity rating at a very low point, in the 30 percent range, and an economic recession looming in addition to continuation of the unpopular war in Iraq, chances are good that voters in November will choose a Democrat as the next president.

      Some Democrats, however, have been cool toward funding missile defense programs, especially in the House.

      The Heritage paper titled "International Missile Defense: Washington and Warsaw’s Positive Step Toward Final Agreement" may be read in full by going to on the Web.

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