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US missile deal gives Poland Patriots, bolstered defence ties

Germany insists US missile shield 'not pointed at Russia'
Berlin insisted on Wednesday that a planned US missile shield in eastern Europe was not directed at Russia, after Washington signed a deal with Warsaw to station 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. "For us the missile defence shield is not pointed at Russia but... can be seen as a European defence system against threats from other regions" such as Iran, government spokesman Thomas Steg said. He added at a regular government press conference that it was a "very sensible gesture" by Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski to say that Warsaw remained open to talks on the shield, including with Moscow. The shield, which also includes a proposed radar facility in the Czech Republic, has angered Russia and has become a major bone of contention between Moscow and Washington.
by Staff Writers
Warsaw (AFP) Aug 20, 2008
The United States will deploy a battery of Patriot air-defence missiles in Poland from next year, under the terms of a deal signed in Warsaw Wednesday, the US State Department announced.

"The US intends to begin this deployment in 2009 with the aim of establishing a garrison to support the army Patriot battery by 2012," it said in a statement.

"Poland intends to provide an appropriate site infrastructure and facilities for this garrison, acceptable to both parties," it added.

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk had described the provision of Patriots as Warsaw's "key demand" during 15 months of grinding talks on basing elements of a wider US anti-missile shield on Polish soil.

Washington plans to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland plus a radar facility in the neighbouring Czech Republic between 2011 and 2013 as part of a system to ward off what it says is the risk of attack by "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea.

Russia has rejected the US arguments in favour of the shield -- which was endorsed by all 26 NATO member states earlier this year -- dubbing it a security threat designed to undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent and threatening to strike back.

The Czech Republic and Poland were Soviet satellites until 1989, but became staunch US allies after the fall of communism, joining NATO in 1999.

Mindful of the potential risks of hosting the interceptor missiles -- not specifically from Russia -- Poland sought a raft of security guarantees.

Last week, after the conclusion of a preliminary deal, Tusk had explained that Poland would "start with a battery of Patriots under US command, but made available to the Polish army".

"Then there would be a second phase, involving equipping the Polish army with missiles," he said.

"In five, seven or 10 years we want to be sufficiently well-equipped and well-trained to be ready, with our allies but also by ourselves, to defend ourselves at a critical moment," he explained.

A senior US defence official said under the deal Washington would provide a Patriot missile battery from a battalion based in Germany, which will require 100 military staff in support.

At the planned interceptor base, the United States is also expected to deploy some 300 soldiers.

Poland had also pressed for what its Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski described as a "kind of reinforcement of Article Five" of the treaty binding NATO members, which says an attack against one is an attack against the entire alliance.

At Wednesday's signing ceremony, Tusk read out a "declaration on strategic cooperation" between Warsaw and Washington.

"Within the context of, and consistent with, the North Atlantic Treaty and the US-Poland strategic partnership, the US is committed to the security of Poland and of any US facilities located on the territory of the Republic of Poland," it said.

"The US and Poland will work together to counter emerging military and non-military threats posed by third parties or to minimize the effect of such threats," it added.

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