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Bush And Poland's Kaczynski Defend Antimissile Plan

July 17, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Polish President Lech Kaczynski met with U.S. President George W. Bush on June 16 at the White House, where the two leaders talked about the war in Iraq and U.S. plans to build a missile-defense base in Poland and the neighboring Czech Republic.

Speaking to reporters at the White House after their talks, Bush and Kaczynski said a Europe-based missile detection and interception system is essential. Bush described the two countries' cooperation on missile defense as a reflection of their shared desire for peace.

"We talked about how we can enhance the mutual security issues," Bush said. "And there is no better symbol of our desire to work for peace and security than working on a missile-defense system, a missile-defense system that would provide security for Europe from single- or dual-launch regimes that may emanate from parts of the world where leaders don't particularly care for our way of life and are in the process of trying to develop serious weapons of mass destruction."

Russian Opposition

The meeting between Bush and Kaczyniski comes just two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his continuing deep opposition to the planned missile-defense system by freezing Moscow’s participation in an international arms control treaty. Putin ordered Russia's suspension of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) -- a post-Cold War stability pact covering the deployment of armed forces from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean.

A Kremlin statement said the decision was linked to "extraordinary circumstances” that affect “the security of the Russian Federation and require immediate measures."

The move was largely seen as response to the United States’ refusal to be dissuaded from plans to establish 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. The United States says the installation is needed to protect against threats from what it calls “rogue states” like Iran and North Korea. Moscow says its experts don't believe Iran poses a missile threat, and regards the plan as hostile.

Kaczynski, a strong Moscow critic, addressed Russian fears by characterizing the installation as purely defensive.

"A very big part of our conversation was about an antimissile defense system and, together with the president, we emphasized that this is a defensive system and will be directed against only those regimes are which are considered to be irresponsible and which already have or may have nuclear weapons in the future," Kaczynski said.

At a brief summit earlier this month at the Bush family home in the northeastern U.S. state of Maine, Bush and Putin discussed a Russian counterproposal to the Czech-Polish missile defense plan. Moscow has proposed relocating the system at a military base it already rents in Azerbaijan, and making it a joint installation.

The White House has called that proposal “interesting” but insists the locations it has identified in Central Europe will not change.

A Strong Ally

At the White House meeting, Bush and Kaczynski also discussed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Poland has 900 troops in Iraq and is currently deciding whether to follow through with a plan to withdraw those forces by the end of this year.

Bush said “war is never popular,” and praised Poland for making “difficult decisions” in support of the U.S.-led effort.

"Poland is a strong ally. And Poland has taken some very difficult decisions to help young democracies survive in the face of extremist threats, and I want to thank you, Mr. President, and the Polish people for supporting the people of Afghanistan and Iraq," Bush said.

Kaczynski is on a three-day official visit to the United States. Polish officials say they don't expect to reach a formal agreement with the United States on the missile-defense plan until September.

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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