28 May, 2011, Russia Today
Missile defense plans and America's military presence in Poland have been in the spotlight as the US president wraps up his European tour with a visit to the country.
Moscow is closely monitoring the situation, especially after Obama's promise to reach an agreement on a system that suits both of their security interests.
After talks with Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski, Obama stressed the need for cooperation with Russia in building a missile defense system.
“We believe missile defense is something where we can cooperate with Russia because we share [common] external threats," RIA-Novosti news agency cited Obama as saying. "This will not be a threat to the strategic balance."
Obama also stressed that the reset of Russia-American relations is good not only for Moscow and Washington, but for Eastern Europe as well because it ultimately reduces tension in the entire region.
Later in the day, the US president held a meeting with Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk. After concluding negotiations with Tusk, Obama confirmed that Poland is going to be part of missile defense system program, reaffirming the United State’s commitment to Poland.
Another issue on the agenda was the possibility of the deployment of US military forces on Polish soil, with the necessary documents solidifying this deal to be signed in near-distant future.
This is Barack Obama’s first official visit to Poland and the last leg of his European tour, with the country’s plans to house a US air base on Polish soil considered to be the most important item on the agenda.
The military base, if agreed upon, will service Hercules military transport planes and F-16 fighter jets. Also, it will possibly house short-range interceptor missiles by 2018. The last time the two countries discussed such an arrangement was during George W. Bush’s presidency.
Back then, Moscow fiercely criticized the plans, saying a system of this nature would be a threat to its national security, given the proximity of its borders to Poland and the Czech Republic, which was also a party to the talks.
This issue continued to be the main stumbling block in relations between Moscow and Washington for a long time. The Obama administration, however, chose to cancel the plans, ostensibly coming to the conclusion that co-operation with Moscow is preferable to provocation. Moreover, talks about a joint anti-missile defense system began that would include Russia, the United States and NATO in sharing responsibility for the at times contentious security apparatus.
At the G8 summit in France, Presidents Medvedev and Obama stressed that such a system, should it be created, has to work for all sides involved. However, when it comes to concrete action, Washington seems to have backed off from its expressed goal of pursuing a mutually beneficial policy. The United States agreed previously with Romania that the country would house certain elements of the US AMD shield on its territory, while Russia was not invited to participate in any way.
President Medvedev condemned such steps by Washington, saying that if such a tendency continues, the world may witness another arms race start by 2020.
Interestingly, many analysts in Poland, including former members of the country’s government, agree that there is no threat to Poland from its neighbors and, therefore, there is no reason for an American military presence on its territory. Also, given the past statements from the current Polish leadership that it is in favor of a policy that would be more independent from Washington, the latest events clearly do not fit into this narrative.
Chicago-based radio host and author Stephen Lendman says that Russia's concerns about the US’s missile defense system are well founded.
“America’s so-called anti-missile defense system it is not for defense, it is for offense – that is what you need to understand,” he said. “This is an offensive system, it is an attack system, and what America has in mind is stationing this close to Russia’s borders. They want a way to intercept Russia’s response before they can do any harm, so they can inflict as much damage as possible. But again, I scratch my head and I say, is it possible that American leaders are so insane? That they want a war with Russia? I certainly cannot conceive of that, but you never know, we had a bunch of lunatics in high places in this country, I do not put anything past them.”