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Polish Missile Crisis By: Kathy Shaidle
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, August 18, 2008


No doubt Russian’s shocking invasion of Georgia prompted Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to finally take out his pen. The deal was a year and a half in the making, but the U.S. and Poland signed a hotly negotiated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on August 14.

According to the agreement, the United States will dev0elop a ballistic missile defense system on Polish territory, temporarily staffed by American soldiers. The system, consisting of 10 interceptors and scheduled for completion in 2010, is designed to deter and if necessary defeat an Iranian missile attack against European NATO states. (Initially, the system will face east, towards Russia, rather than towards Iran in the west.)

In exchange, Poland receives “enhanced security cooperation” from the United States, including a new Patriot air defense system, and an assurance that the U.S. “would be obliged to defend Poland in case of an attack with greater speed than required under NATO, of which Poland is a member.”

“We have crossed the Rubicon,” declared PM Tusk, who pulled no punches as he explained the deal on national television: "Poland and the Poles do not want to be in alliances in which assistance comes at some point later — it is no good when assistance comes to dead people. Poland wants to be in alliances where assistance comes in the very first hours of — knock on wood — any possible conflict."

Convinced that the entire deal is a Trojan Horse targeting Russia rather than Iran, Deputy Chief of Staff General Anatoly Nogovitsyn didn’t mince words either, saying, "Poland, by deploying [the system] is exposing itself to [nuclear] attack, one hundred percent."

Joshua Keating of Foreign Policy magazine wrote right after the deal was signed that “Russia would appear to have few options for punishing Poland, a member of both the EU and NATO with a far larger military and economy than Georgia, but after last week it would be foolish to underestimate what Vladimir Putin can accomplish with limited military and political resources.”

Indeed, one observer called Russia’s military “essentially hollow. Though numerically large, the Russian army is antiquated, clumsy and poorly trained”; the Russian air force “is in worse shape”; and the country’s navy “is a rusting antique with little relevance.” Any conventional Russian invasion of Ukraine or Poland would be put down quickly by United States or even Western European forces.

Yet as Nogovitsyn’s warnings indicate, Russia’s advantage is its possession of the second largest nuclear arsenal in the world. The nation’s increasingly heated rhetoric would seem to indicate a willingness to use it. In fact, Moscow is trying to present a nuclear strike as a kind of obligation.

"The USA is busy with its own missile defense system,” General Nogovitsyn told Pravda on August 15, “it does not intend to defend Poland at this point. Poland lays itself open to attack giving the USA a permission to deploy the system. The country may become an object of Russia's reaction. Such targets are destroyed in the first instance.”

He stated that Russia might use nuclear weapons in cases as stipulated by the defense doctrine:

"It clearly states that we can use nuclear weapons against the countries possessing nuclear weapons, against allies of such countries, if they somehow support them, and against those countries, which deploy other countries' nuclear weapons on their territories. Poland is aware of it.”

The White House was quick to reassure Russia of its intentions, going so far as inviting Moscow to partner in a continent wide missile defense system with NATO allies. So far, however, the invitation hasn’t been accepted. Press secretary Dana Perino explained, "In no way is the president's plan for missile defense aimed at Russia. In fact, it's just not even logically possible for it to be aimed at Russia, given how Russia could overwhelm it. The purpose of missile defense is to protect our European allies from any rogue threats, such as a missile from Iran."

And Iran is indeed a threat. In July, Iran tested a series of missiles in a display of power that made front-page headlines around the world. The highly touted photos of the tests turned out to have been photoshopped by the Iranians, so the number of actual missiles fired is now disputed. However, Iran has successfully tested medium range Shahab-3 missiles before, which can reach targets up to 2000km away. Iran is also believed to be developing longer range missiles.

That July test coincided with a pact signed the previous day, in which the Czech Republic agreed to station U.S. missile defense radar within its borders. Whether Iran will respond to the new Polish missile pact with a similar show of force – with or without computerized enhancement for Western consumption – remains to be seen.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain issued an approving statement the day after the Polish pact was signed, noting that the deal “constitutes an important step forward in protecting European nations from a growing threat – missile attacks from states like Iran.” McCain added, “I was disappointed in Russia's reaction to the announcement. Threatening attacks against Poland, a NATO ally, is a wholly inappropriate response to an agreement that is not aimed at countering Russia. Rather than exchanging charges over missile defense, I would urge Moscow to comply with the ceasefire in Georgia and immediately begin withdrawing its forces from sovereign Georgian territory.”

With historical analogies to the Trojan Horse and “crossing the Rubicon” running rampant, it is appropriate that a familiar figure from more recent history chose to weigh in. Lech Walesa, who helped defeat the Soviet regime in Poland in the 1980s, welcomed news of the missile shield. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate told the London Daily Telegraph that he had always supported the missile shield plan.

“I'm glad that the thing is finalised now. There are so many weapons on the planet that the Earth could be destroyed 10 times over. It's obvious we don't need a new arms race but in the end, I'm in favour of the shield. The pros for Polish security outweigh the cons. It's good that the Americans will be here."

One of Poland’s neighbors seems to agree. On August 17, the Telegraph reported that Ukraine was “ready to give both Europe and America access to its missile warning systems” – which had once been part of the then Soviet Union’s early-warning system for missiles coming from Europe.


Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury.com. Her new book exposing abuses by Canada’s Human Rights Commissions, The Tyranny of Nice, includes an introduction by Mark Steyn.


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