Thursday, August 14, 2008

US, Poland agree to missile defense deal

US, Poland agree to missile defense deal

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland and the United States reached an agreement Thursday that will see a battery of American missiles established inside Poland, a plan that has infuriated Russia and raised the specter of an escalation of tension with the region's communist-era master.

The deal, which was to be signed later Thursday in Warsaw by Poland and the United States, includes what Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk called a "mutual commitment" between the two nations — beyond that of NATO — to come to each other's assistance in case of danger.

That was an obvious reference to the force and ferocity with which Russia rolled into Georgia in recent days, taking the key city of Gori and apparently burning and destroying Georgian military outposts and airfields.

Tusk said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would be too slow in coming to Poland's defense if Poland were threatened and that the bloc would take "days, weeks to start that machinery."

"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," Tusk said.

"This is a step toward real security for Poland in the future," he added.

Tusk, speaking in a televised interview from the capital, said the United States agreed to Polish proposals that it help augment its defenses in exchange for placing 10 missile defense interceptors.

Tusk said that the U.S. met the key Polish demands "concerning the permanent presence of Patriots, missiles that will be able to effectively protect our territory."

"The Americans have accepted these postulates," he said on TVN24, an all-news channel.

The deal was reached after more than 18 months of back-and-forth, often terse, negotiations.