The Pentagon’s five-year budget request, to be released to Congress on Feb. 6, will likely contain about $200 million for missile defenses in Poland as part of the proposed European-based shield to counter Iran, Senator. Mark Kirk (R-Ill), told National Journal in a telephone interview. About $50 million will come from the Navy's budget, and another $150 million from the Missile Defense Agency, according to Kirk, who is also a member of the Appropriations Committee.
Kirk is fresh off a trip to Redzikowo, Poland, where the U.S. plans to build an interceptor base he says would be “directly under the flight path for a missile flying from Iran to the United States.”
The Polish system, expected to be operational in 2018, will see planning money in the Pentagon's fiscal 2014 budget. Money for construction funding would follow in fiscal 2015; then, for operational gear and munitions in 2016; and for the completion of construction and testing of the system in 2017. About 100 U.S. personnel will be needed to help build and man the system — with the final operational team to be deployed in 2017.
Polish officials were irritated with the Obama administration's decision in 2009 to scrap plans for a missile-defense shield in Poland -- before the U.S. proposed a new system with 24 interceptors in the same location, near its border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
Kirk, who traveled to Poland with Illinois Democratic Representative Mike Quigley, said Polish officials believe the administration's proposed missile-defense system is “critical.” Kirk met with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski and a range of other defense and government officials.
Poland is one of the “few countries where defense spending is going up ... [making them] a more and more capable ally of the United States,” Kirk said.
Kirk said he supports Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's decision to pull two U.S. Army brigades out of Germany, in one of the Pentagon's first concrete moves toward fulfilling a new global posture and adhering to budget-savings requirements as it seeks to trim about $450 billion over the next decade. "I think that's a wise decision," he said, "and it also makes budget room for sustaining our commitment to missile defense in Poland."
The deployment of the missile-defense interceptors and the extension of the timeframe for F-16s and Patriot missiles stationed in the country, Kirk said, could help “rebut a European impression that somehow the United States is abandoning Europe.”
Russia has voiced its objections to the European-based missile-defense system, which also comprises agreements for interceptor missiles in Romania and a radar system in Turkey. Moscow has demanded written assurances that Washington's planned system would not be used against its own intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Though Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has threatened to deploy missiles -- and even consider withdrawing from the high-profile New START nuclear-arms reduction treaty -- if the U.S. presses ahead with its plans, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said last week she was confident Washington and its allies will be able to secure Moscow's cooperation in an agreement on the shield meant to counter Iran's nuclear efforts.
Kirk said he supported having "pleasant discussions" with the Russians over their participation in the shield -- but, in the end, said the U.S. shouldn't allow Moscow to participate.
"They [the Russians] would learn a vast amount about our capabilities and our weaknesses if we ever let them in the system," Kirk said. "I think that would be a mistake." Referencing Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister of Russia who is scheduled to go for a long "working visit" in Iran this month, he said that the "reality for Russia and Rogozin is: Any information on NATO missile defense that we give to the Russians will immediately then be forwarded to the Iranians" (see GSN, Jan. 6).
Kirk continued, "The Polish officials I talked to felt very strongly that anything given to the Russians will be given to the Iranians."
The Obama administration provided written assurances to Kirk that no hit-to-kill technology, telemetry, or other classified critical data will be given to the Russians -- and Congress passed restrictions in the defense-authorization bill requiring 60 days notice if there were any proposal to do so.
Kirk promised a fight if the administration were to notify Congress it planned to share classified missile-defense data with Russia. "I would obviously raise holy hell if the administration moved forward to do this," he said. "And I would make sure it was part of the presidential election if the U.S. ever tried to give key missile-defense data to the Russians."