A high-level Polish official said on Sunday, June 29, his nation might in a matter of days sign a deal with the United States on hosting 10 U.S. missile interceptors. A few days later it seemed that the breakthrough was achieved. According to Reuters, a senior US State Department official stated on Wednesday, July 2, that the United States and Poland have reached a deal. To be more specific: a tentative deal! Again? In February both sides already announced that they clinched a deal “in principle”. Now the deal is tentative? How will the next deal be titled? Preliminary? Provisional?
Witold Waszczykowski, Poland's chief negotiator, told Reuters that "[t]he last round of negotiations with the Americans has been finalized." However, I am highly skeptical that we can take the “last” literally. The pact was so far only agreed on the working level and still requires final approval from Warsaw. The Polish government announced that it would need time to assess the proposal and that it would not be rushed into a decision.
It seems that I am not the only one who is cautious about the “deal”: Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich revealed that no consensus has been reached. Deutsche Welle quoted him:
"The negotiations have not ended - another round of talks was concluded - for the time being we are not at the finish line. […] We completed an important, a significant, round of talks two days ago but the finish line of talks is still ahead of us.”This sounds similar to what Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said in February:
"We are not at the end of the road as regards negotiations. We are in the middle of the road."General Stanislaw Koziej, advisor to Bogdan Klich, added to the confusion. He said that the negotiations are in gridlock. This was on June 30, only one day after the high-level Polish official mentioned in the beginning stated his expectation that the agreement is almost home and dry.
Skeptics and contradictory statements are not limited to the Polish side, they can also be found within the U.S. administration: Daniel Fried, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and a former ambassador to Poland, refused to confirm that an agreement had been reached.
So what is this tohubohu about? In the recent days the Lithuania was named as an alternative to host the base. Polish officials rightfully perceive this to be a hollow threat designed simply to put pressure on Warsaw to bring the negotiations to a conclusion. Therefore one can interpret the “progress” in the U.S.-Polish discussion as a means for Poland to reaffirm its position as the exclusive negotiation partner, keeping the negotiations alive but not giving in. This increases the chances that Poland will in the end be able to sell its consent to host the interceptors for a high price.