Lithuania would consider hosting U.S. missile interceptors if asked, an official said yesterday (see GSN, June 18).
The Bush administration has reportedly been eyeing the former Soviet republic as a fallback site if Poland cannot be persuaded to accept 10 U.S. missile interceptors. Officials in Vilnius and Washington have both said that there have been no formal talks on the matter.
"We should consider all the pluses and minuses," said Defense Minister Juozas Olekas. However, "we believe that agreement with Poland will be made," he added.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has driven a hard bargain, suggesting Washington must provide tens of millions of dollars for military modernization to see the deal realized.
Washington hopes to deploy an early warning radar in the Czech Republic to complement the interceptor site. The European installations would be intended to provide added defense against potential missile threats from nations such as Iran.
Lithuania supports programs that would boost the defenses of NATO states, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Violeta Gaizauskaite.
"We are interested in this project and see it as a very important project to increase security," she told AFP. "The NATO summit in Bucharest approved this project and we believe it should be implemented" (see GSN, April 3; Agence France-Presse/Yahoo!News, June 18).
Russia, however, would probably be angered by the placement of a U.S. missile defense installation on former Soviet territory, the New York Times reported. Moscow has already threatened military responses to the Bush administration plan for Poland and the Czech Republic.
"The last thing we need is another conflict with Russia," said Gereon Schuch, of the German Council for Foreign Affairs.
"There is no doubt that Russia would exploit this to the full if parts of the U.S. missile shield were based here," said Vilnius University political science professor Raimundas Lopata (Judy Dempsey, New York Times, June 19).