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Variable remains for inked antimissile deal
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16:19, August 22, 2008

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Poland and the United States signed a deal on Wednesday, or August 20 to deploy a U.S. missile shield in Poland. The agreement was signed by Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, bringing to a close 18 months of tough negotiation and hard bargaining between the two governments to deploy part of the U.S. global missile shield in the east European country.

Apart from an investment to be input for the antimissile base, the United States will directly build two garrisons of US servicemen in Poland for intercepting long-range missiles and guarding against possible attacks by short and medium-range missiles respectively, according to the agreement. In addition, Poland will, by 2018, have purchased ample Patriot missiles from the U.S. to beef up its air defenses.

President George W. Bush's administration has reached accords with both the Czech Republic and Poland in the brief remaining period of his presidency, acknowledge political observers, who consider the administration impatient or even overanxious for quick results. The second reason, they say, is attributable to the Georgia-Russia conflict over South Ossetia, which spurs the U.S. to consider reinforcing the security guarantee for the former East European countries.

The Poland-U.S. talks concerning the antimissile system had once been stagnant and progressed slowly for a period of time, and so some defense experts even predicted that it could end in eventual failure. Even in July this year, most of the populace in Poland held a negative attitude on the U.S deployment of an antimissile system on their soil. A public opinion poll conducted last week showed that 45 percent of Poles were for and 36 percent against the Polish-U.S. antimissile shield. However, only a couple of latest polls have indicated that its supporters outstripped its opponents in number for the first time.

It is primarily because the terms for the talks the Polish side had presented to the U.S. side have basically been met, acknowledged Polish analysts. Besides, the Russia-Georgia crisis over South Ossetia has brought a favorable turn for the negotiations as it prompts Poland to hasten to seek a nuclear umbrella from the West.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has repeatedly underscored the defensive character of the antimissile shield after the conclusion of the agreement on August 20. "It will deepen our defense cooperation and it will deepen our ability to deal with threat," Rice said, declaring that "The shield is not directed against anyone. This is a defensive system." Russia, however, objects the antimissile shield accord. The Russian Foreign Ministry announced in a statement issued late Wednesday that it would resort to means beyond "diplomatic protests" (to deal with the antimissile system).

Only after Poland became a NATO formal member in 1999, the first batch of foreign resident troops came to station on its territory. So, the Polish-U.S. antimissile agreement still needs to be approved by Polish parliament and the President, apart from having it inked by the Polish government and its counterpart, Bush administration.

In drastic contrast with the situation in Czech Republic where the ruling party and opposition are in divergence of views, the Polish government has won the support of main political forces. Moreover, President Lech Kacznsk has long been in favor of basing U.S. antimissile facilities in his country. Even before the Polish-U.S. talks commenced two years ago, he claimed during a trip to the U.S that it was a foregone conclusion for the antimissile system to be set up in Poland.

As a matter of fact, the true variable still rests with the U.S. side. The U.S. Congress with a Democratic majority kept raising doubts on the effectiveness of the antimissile shield. Hence, it would be impossible to build the antimissile shield if Congress disagrees to make any appropriations to this end. Moreover, if the new U.S. president, to come to the fore from the general election in less than three months, has all along taken a skeptical attitude on the issue, he is likely to shelve any accords that the Bush administration have signed with governments of other countries.

By People's Daily Online and its author is PD desk editor Jin Zhao

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