Monday, March 3, 2008

News from the New Europe

The recent days brought some development in the missile defense issue, but certainly nothing that could justifiably be touted as progress.

Jane’s reports:

While US-Polish talks on the details and timing of the ballistic missile site itself are progressing, according to the sources the negotiating parties are in opposition over two other subjects arising from, but not directly linked, to the missile site. These are bilateral US-Polish defence co-operation and the stationing of US troops in Poland via a specific status-of-forces agreement (SOFA).

Not directly linked??? The critical comments made recently by a senior aide to Prime Minister Donald Tusk were quite clear: "the talks with our American friends are aimed at reaching a ... form of agreement that is mutually advantageous".

Last week a U.S. military delegation visited Warsaw to discuss the non-linked issues. Stephen Mull, acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs, said the two countries "agreed to focus in particular on Poland's air defense, command and control and mobility needs." Poland is pushing for Patriot 3 or THAAD missiles, and has identified 17 areas of its military that the U.S. could help modernize.

The Polish wish-list will certainly be on the agenda during the visit of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Washington during March 8-10.

The news coming from the negotiations with the Polish southern neighbor are also not suited to make MDA cheer.

After a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush last Wednesday, the visiting Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said the failure was due to environmental reasons. "We want the strictest possible standards to be applied in terms of ensuring and guaranteeing environmental protection," Topolanek told media.

Notwithstanding of these differences, U.S. President George W. Bush and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek shared the view that they were close to agreeing on a deal. We have heard something similar before, deals that were clinched “in principle”. Czech and U.S. negotiators will resume talks this week in Prague about the radar base. So we will see if the Czechs learned from Warsaw and if the environmental concerns will procrastinate the negotiations further.

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