Poland sticking to U.S. missile shield commitments - top brass

11:50, 25 February 2009
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But the U.S. administration has to decide on...

Poland is sticking to its commitments on the deployment of U.S. missile shield elements on its territory, but the U.S. administration has to decide on the timeframe, a senior Polish military official said on Wednesday, RIA Novosti.

Washington has agreed plans with Warsaw and Prague to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic by 2013. The United States says the defenses are needed to deter possible strikes from "rogue states" such as Iran.

Russia has consistently opposed the missile shield as a threat to its national security and the balance of security in Europe. President Dmitry Medvedev threatened in November to retaliate if the U.S. plans went ahead by deploying Iskander-M missiles in the country`s westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania.

"Russia is against the missile shield, but the missile shield is not against Russia. We [Poland] have signed an agreement with the United States and are ready to deploy American interceptor missiles. But the implementation of the agreement depends on the U.S. The Americans should decide when they are ready to do this," Deputy Defense Minister Stanislaw Komorowski said in an interview with Russian popular daily Vremya Novostei.

U.S. President Barack Obama indicated earlier that he may put on hold his predecessor George Bush`s plans concerning the third site for Washington`s global missile defense system, which he said needed more analysis.

Komorowski also said that Poland is a full-fledged NATO member as it has been in the organization for 10 years now, adding that Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski would be a good candidate to replace NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, whose five-year term expires this year.

"We are by far not new members of the alliance, but its participants. Poland has sent some 3,000 peacekeepers on various missions abroad," he said.

Speaking about perspectives for Georgia and Ukraine to gain membership to the alliance, Komorowski said it is possible, but "in the distant future."

"One day Georgia will become a NATO member. But it needs Georgia to be ready for this and for us [NATO] to be ready to accept it [Georgia]. This is in the distant future, but it is in the future. The same goes for Ukraine," he said.

Last December, European NATO members led by Germany blocked U.S.-backed bids by Ukraine and Georgia to join programs leading to membership in the Western military alliance. The refusal was welcomed by Russia, which strongly opposes the alliance`s expansion into the former Soviet Union.

Relations between Russia and NATO last year reached their lowest point since the Cold War after the brief military conflict between Moscow and Tbilisi.

In response to NATO`s decision to halt cooperation, Russia put on hold a number of programs, including the Partnership for Peace program, a high-ranking visit to Moscow, some joint naval training and NATO visits to Russian ports.

RIA Novosti

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