Polish Missile-Defense Site Would
Benefit All Europe, Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore

A proposed anti-ballistic missile defense site in Poland would benefit all of Europe, a senior Pentagon spokesman said. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich discussed Iraq, missile defense and other issues during meetings held at the Defense Department’s headquarters, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.

Gates and Klich “had a discussion about a range of issues,” Morrell reported, including Polish plans to reduce their forces in Iraq while increasing their troop contribution in Afghanistan. There are now about 900 Polish troops in Iraq and around 1,200 in Afghanistan. News reports say Poland is considering withdrawing its forces from Iraq sometime this year, while sending 400 more troops to Afghanistan.

But Gates and Klich spent most of their time together discussing missile-defense issues, Morrell said. American security experts believe that a missile-defense system should be installed in Eastern Europe, specifically placing an interceptor site in Poland and a related facility in the Czech Republic to counter the threat of a potential ballistic-missile strike from Iran.

A new Polish government was elected in November, and its senior officials have been examining the missile-defense issue, Morrell noted.

“I think we are now at the point where they understand where the previous government has negotiated” on the missile-defense issue, Morrell said of the senior Polish leaders in the new government. “They have some domestic concerns which they are trying to address.”

Meanwhile, Defense Department and other U.S. government officials continue to negotiate the missile-defense issue with Poland’s government.

The proposed missile-defense program is “of vital importance, not just for us, but really for Europe, and that’s the key here,” Morrell emphasized. “Putting these interceptors in Poland does far more to benefit Europe and our allies there than it does for us.”

The missile-defense issue also involves the Atlantic Alliance, Morrell pointed out. The United States and Poland are NATO members.

“This is an issue for NATO. Deploying interceptors in Poland will provide NATO with the ability to protect itself from a missile threat virtually everybody recognizes exists today,” Morrell said.