(Adds Rice quotes paragraphs 6-9)
By Gabriela Baczynska and David Alexander
WARSAW Aug 20 The United States and Poland
signed a deal on Wednesday to station parts of a U.S. missile
defence shield on Polish soil, drawing a sharp response from
The deal is seen as certain to aggravate tensions between
Russia and the West already strained by Moscow's military
intervention in Georgia.
The 10 interceptor rockets in Poland, along with a radar
complex in the Czech Republic, will form the European part of a
global system Washington says will be able to shoot down
missiles from "rogue" states or groups such as al Qaeda.
"This is an agreement that will establish a missile defence
site here in Poland that will help us to deal with ... long
range missiles ... from countries like Iran or North Korea,"
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who signed the
agreement with Poland's Radoslaw Sikorski, told reporters.
Despite U.S. assurances to the contrary, Russia sees the
ballistic missile shield as a threat to its own security and
some Russian politicians and generals have said Poland must be
prepared for a preventive attack on the site in the future.
Rice said she understood why NATO Secretary-General Jaap de
Hoop Scheffer had denounced such remarks as "pathetic rhetoric."
"What the secretary general was referring to is fulminating
about how you're going to attack Poland because there are 10
interceptors aimed at long-range threats of the future from
countries like Iran when you've been offered all kinds of
measures to demonstrate" that the missiles are not aimed at
Russia, Rice said. "(It) just borders on the bizarre."
In an interview with CNN, Rice said Russia knows NATO has a
commitment and obligation to defend Poland.
"They (Russia) must know that the United States would never
permit an attack on the territory of an ally under Article 5,"
said Rice, referring to part of the North Atlantic Treaty that
says an attack on one member is considered an attack on all.
The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said later: "Russia in this
case will have to react and not only through diplomatic
The shield was "one of the instruments in an extremely
dangerous bundle of American military projects involving the
one-sided development of a global missile shield system".
A ministry statement said it would provide no protection
against "imaginary Iranian danger".
POLISH SECURITY CONCERNS
The interceptors will be placed at the ex-Warsaw Pact base
of Redzikowo in northern Poland, 1,360 km (800 miles) from
Moscow and 300 km from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, on
the Baltic Sea coast.
Russia says Washington and Warsaw rushed through the deal as
a response to its military action in Georgia. Warsaw and
Washington deny this although Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk
has said events in Georgia show Poland's security concerns need
to be taken seriously by the United States.
Poland, the biggest ex-Soviet satellite in central Europe,
and the Baltic states have condemned the Russian troops' advance
into Georgia, and political commentators have drawn parallels
with the Soviet interventions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia in
1956 and 1968.
Surveys have shown a turnaround in Polish public opinion in
favour of the shield since the Russian intervention in Georgia.
NATO endorsed the U.S. missile defence plan for Europe at a
summit in April even though some European allies doubt its
effectiveness and worry it could lead to a new arms race.
The missile shield deal must now be approved by the Polish
parliament, which is seen as a formality because the government
as well as the main opposition party support it.
The Czech government has already agreed to host the radar
site but it faces a tougher task of pushing it through
parliament, where it holds only half the chamber's 200 seats.
Analysts said Poland's agreement to join the plan was a
positive but not decisive signal for the Czech ratification.
"While before it was unclear whether Poland would go for it
or not, the Czech opposition could object to the concept as a
whole," said Petr Just, from Charles University in Prague.
Tusk's government bargained hard over terms after coming to
power last November, demanding greater military cooperation with
the United States for hosting the site.
The negotiations seemed stuck in July but a compromise was
reached just as Russia intervened in South Ossetia.
Under the deal, Washington finally agreed to meet a Polish
demand to base a battery of Patriot missiles in Poland as
defence against a short-range attack Warsaw fears.