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Poland, US Sign Missile Agreement

By Sonja Pace


20 August 2008

The United States and Poland have formally signed a deal to deploy American missiles in the east European nation. The United States says the missiles are needed to guard against attacks from rogue states like Iran; Russia says the deployment threatens its own security. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Warsaw to sign off on the deal with her Polish counterpart, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski. Rice says the agreement will help both countries guard against the threats of the 21st century.

"It is an agreement that deepens the defense cooperation between Poland and the United States," she explained. "It does so, of course, in the context of our great alliance with NATO and our Article-5 commitments to one another in that alliance."

The United States is to place up to 10 interceptor missiles in Poland by 2013. The deployment is part of a broader missile shield that includes a radar facility in the Czech Republic, alongside facilities in place in the United States, Greenland and Britain.

The United States has long argued the missile shield is necessary to defend against long-range missile attacks from rogue states.

Speaking in Warsaw, Secretary Rice again made the point.

"Missile defense, of course, is aimed at no one. It is in our defense that we do this," Rice said.

Russia rejects that reasoning and has said the missile shield deployment in Europe is instead designed to undermine Russia's own missile capability and threatens its security.

The signing of the agreement comes amid heightened tensions with Russia about the conflict in Georgia and amid growing western pressure on Moscow to withdraw its troops from Georgian territory.

On the surface, it was Georgia's military actions against pro-Russian separatist forces in its breakaway region of South Ossetia that sparked the conflict with Russia. But, Russia's overwhelming military response is widely seen as designed to teach the Georgians a lesson for aspiring to join both the European Union and NATO.

Speaking at a NATO meeting in Brussels Tuesday, Rice said it was not up to Russia to decide who might join the Western alliance. And, in Warsaw, she applauded Poland's own journey from the former Soviet bloc to its now staunch membership in the EU and NATO.

The missile defense agreement with Poland must now be ratified by that country's parliament.

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