WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. missile-defense system will be built in Poland despite Russia’s anger over the plans, Polish President Lech Kaczynski said on Monday after a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush.
Kaczynski expressed confidence over the proposed system, although Poland has held off a formal agreement to host it and pressed for concessions on issues including related military contracts.
“The matter of the shield is largely a foregone conclusion,” Kaczynski said at a news conference following the meeting.
“The shield will exist because for Poland this will be a very good thing,” he said.
Washington wants to place up to 10 ground-based interceptor missiles in northern Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic to protect against attacks from what it calls “rogue states” such as Iran and North Korea.
Kaczynski said several issues still have to be ironed out, including the size of the base and the number of U.S. soldiers to be stationed there.
“The location on the technical level is already decided, but we will soon announce where,” Kaczynski said.
The Czech Republic has already agreed to the radar site.
Russian President Vladimir Putin late last week suspended Moscow’s participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe, or CFE, treaty from mid-December, in a move widely seen as an effort to raise pressure over the U.S. plans.
Bush and Kaczynski insisted the system was not aimed at Russia.
Rather, it would provide security for Europe from countries where “leaders don’t particularly care for our way of life and, or, are in the process of trying to develop serious weapons of mass destruction,” Bush said with Kaczynski at his side in the Oval Office.
Kaczynski is one of Moscow’s most outspoken critics and a key U.S. ally in Europe. He said he wanted to emphasize the “defensive” nature of the proposed missile shield.
NATO expressed concern on Monday at Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the CFE treaty, which covers the deployment of armed forces in post-Cold War Europe.
The White House said it would keep working with Russia on missile defense.
Bush and Putin met earlier this month at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, in an attempt to improve ties that have become frayed partly over the missile shield.
Putin made a new counter-proposal that expanded on his previous offer to use a radar system in Azerbaijan as an alternative to the U.S. plan.
He suggested incorporating a radar system in southern Russia and bringing more European countries into the decision-making through the Russia-NATO Council.
“The comments that the Russian president made up in Kennebunkport offered a certain amount of promise for moving forward. We continue to have discussions with them on it,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
Polish and U.S. negotiators held talks on the shield in late June in Washington and will resume them later this summer.
Deputy Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski, who represents Poland in the talks, has said he expects a deal in September or October.
On Tuesday, Kaczynski will visit Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where the United States has been testing missile defence technology and plans to place four interceptors by 2011.