Clinton Promises U.S. Support for Poland While Skirting Missile Defense Plans

While avoiding any promise to deploy U.S. missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought yesterday to reassure Warsaw that the United States would meet its defense obligations to its NATO ally, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, March 20).

The Bush administration initiated a plan to deploy missile interceptors and a tracking radar in Poland and the Czech Republic, respectively, but U.S. President Barack Obama has so far not indicated whether he will sustain that effort. The issue has emerged as a major thorn in U.S.-Russian relations, as Moscow has argued that the systems would threaten its strategic deterrent.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski expressed concern yesterday about the U.S. commitment.

"When we started discussing this business with the United States, the U.S. assured us that they would persuade Russia," he said at a Brussels meeting. "I am afraid Russian generals and even the Russian president continue to threaten us with the deployment of medium-range missiles."

Clinton, however, sought to ease Polish concerns.

"We have a very long and deep relationship with Poland and the Polish government and the Polish people," she said in Washington. "We are going to continue to consult with them and work through the issues concerning security that are of great interest not only to the Poles but all Europeans and the United States."

"As members of NATO, we take seriously our alliance commitment and I am very confident that we will work through whatever issue," Clinton added (Agence France-Presse/Google News, March 24).

The issue has also been hotly contested in the Czech Republic, where Prime Minster Mirek Topolanek failed to win a parliamentary vote of confidence yesterday. He had recently delayed a vote on the missile defense plan due to fears that lawmakers would reject the radar, the New York Times reported. The need for Topolanek to build a new coalition or face elections in several months could undermine his advocacy for the system, according to the Times (Dan Bilefsky, New York Times, March 25).

A Russian diplomat said the missile defense issue was at the root of Topolanek's drooping political support.

"The issue of the deployment of a missile defense facility on Czech soil was among the main and fundamental reasons for Czech society and the Czech opposition to criticize the government led by Topolanek," said Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's representative to NATO. "It is obvious that the opposition has become much stronger of late, and the withdrawal of a bill on the ratification of the missile defense agreement from the parliament, which the Topolanek government felt forced to do, was only the first portent of this" (Kiev Post, March 25).

March 25, 2009
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While avoiding any promise to deploy U.S. missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought yesterday to reassure Warsaw that the United States would meet its defense obligations to its NATO ally, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, March 20).

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