Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Poland, US don't understand Russian threat

WARSAW, Poland, July 24--Poland and US remain undeterred by Russian opposition to Washington's plans to build a missile defense system in eastern Europe, the chief Polish negotiator said Tuesday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said Russia had shown a determination to block the project, most recently by suspending its participation in a key European arms control treaty.

In a phone interview with The Associated Press, Waszczykowski said the Polish President Lech Kaczynski and US President George W. Bush discussed their concerns over Russia's move during their meeting in Washington last week and resolved not to be swayed by it.

"During the meeting of Kaczynski and President Bush, we discussed what else the Russians can do to spoil the whole concept, and the straightforward answer was, well, that we will continue,'' Waszczykowski said.

"Despite Russia trying to spoil this concept, to destroy the whole idea, there is a determination and commitment on the American side to continue the project as they proposed in January of this year,'' said Waszczykowski, who accompanied Kaczynski to Washington.

Waszczykowski said that Bush and Kaczynski discussed how seriously to take Russia's decision to suspend its participation in the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe.

"That was part of the discussion -- how are we supposed to react? Is it only rhetoric, used just like 10 years ago during the discussion on NATO enlargement?'' said Waszczykowski, a former charge d'affaires to NATO who led Poland's negotiations on joining the alliance.

"Or is it something serious that we need to take into consideration -- do we have to take care and be afraid? So far it's too early to answer this.''

The US formally asked Poland in January to let it place 10 interceptors in Poland as part of a system aimed at a baseless claim of protecting the US and Europe from future missile attacks from neighboring countries. The system would also include a radar base in the Czech Republic.

Russia says the US anti-missile system would upset the balance of strategic forces in Europe. Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested in June that the US modify the proposal and use current or proposed radar sites in Azerbaijan and southern Russia.

That plan, Waszczykowski said, is "worth taking into consideration. But it cannot replace the whole system -- it can add additional value, but it cannot replace the original proposal.''

Poland has not yet given its final decision.

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