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Euro-Missile Talks Are Back, Leaving "New Europe" Behind

After months of pitfalls and procrastination, talks have picked up again on the placement of US missile defense sites in the Czech Republic and Poland – and negotiations are not getting any easier for the United States. The NYT reports:

The new [Polish] government apparently intends to press the United States to pay for creating, maintaining and protecting the system and to modernize Poland’s air defense capacities by providing Patriot missiles. “The new Polish government is prepared to drive a hard bargain because much is at stake if this system goes ahead,” said Tomas Valasek, director of defense at the Center for European Reform, an independent research agency in London . “Poland wants security guarantees from the U.S. since it is not convinced NATO would provide that guarantee. This means the U.S. putting boots on the ground in Poland but also helping Poland to upgrade its air defenses.”

What I find interesting is that Europe is supposed to benefit from the missile shield, and yet is now demanding more money and goodies from the US to secure European support.

The harder line by the new Polish government is not a surprise, but nonetheless will increase uncertainty for a project that is already facing domestic opposition in Europe, official opposition from Russia, and is not too popular among Democrats in Congress either – all this during a US election year. Congress is wary about expanding missile defense systems based in large part on high costs and frequent let-downs in the technology. According to a recent report by the reputable non-partisan Congressional Budget Office:

Carrying out current plans would cause total investment costs for missile defenses to peak in 2016 at about $15 billion [per year] (excluding cost risk), CBO projects, and then decrease, as systems finished the procurement phase and became operational. This peak occurs about three years later than that projected by CBO in October 2005 because of delays in several major programs, as discussed below. If cost risk is taken into account, DoD’s projected investment needs for missile defenses might be about $3 billion higher each year.

The new Euro-missile sites in the Czech and Poland are alone estimated to cost roughly $18 billion between 2007-2017.

I wonder if Poland's harder line signals the death of Rumsfeld’s unequivocally pro-American "New Europe"?  The US appears willing to entertain Polish demands for now, with a Pentagon spokesman stating, "Because of [Poland's special relationship with the U.S.], we believe that we can overcome whatever differences may exist on this issue very quickly."   However, there is definitely a notable reticence to back US missile defense plans from the new Polish government that was not found in its predecessor. 


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Don S on :

I sympathize with the Pole's position, if not with all of their demands. The Poles thought they were joining a strong alliance which would stoutly defend them from the Russians, but they ended up in a crumbling alliance where the Germans and French have been making common cause with the Russians while contributing every less to the alliance. Meanwhile the US us steadily drawing down force levels in Europe in responce to the situation; and the troops are unlikely to return even when Iraq/Afghanistan wind down. It must feel naked to be a Pole right now....

Kyle - Atlantic Review on :

Maybe it's not so bad being a naked Pole:

Pat Patterson on :

In 2004, when it was widely reported, the US announced that they were planning to withdraw some 70,000 of the 100,000 servicemen stationed in Europe. In 2007 the US has announced that there are now 110,000 servicemen stationed in Europe though with anywhere from 25-35,000 deployed throughout the ME and some of the ex-Soviet republics. Some bases indeed may have been closed but the number of troops stationed in Europe is greater now than four years ago. In 2000 barely 70,000 servicemen were stationed in Europe down from over a quarter of a million from the previous decades. Everybody seems to talk a lot about further US drawdowns but ignore that the numbers have actually risen since a low point at the beginning of the century. I might agree somewhat with the idea that the Poles expected more from NATO yet from the very beginning Poland has sought to be indispensible to the US. And if it took jumping through hoops(unintended pun here) put up by NATO then so be it. The US in the last few years has already given the Poles over a billion dollars in cash and equipment to upgrade its Soviet era air and missile defenses. The Poles have been asking for the upgraded Patriot and THAAD systems from the very beginning but the US generally demurred fearing that the Russians might do exactly what they have threatened to do. With the continued saber rattling US resistence to providing these upgraded tactical weapons seems to be lessening.

Nomad on :

I wish the Pole's decided for a good once where they sit, cause so far, they chose their chair where it was convenient for them ; I don't think Putin is a threat for EU, cause he gets all the good money he needs from us with oil and gaz tradings. The missiles bargain was and is still a political dialectical argument in the Iran Putin interference and The Pole's are still searching their identity, ya slavony ?

Kyle - Atlantic Review on :

Hi Nomad: In you experience, do the French feel animosity toward Poland due to the Iraq war and Rumsfeld's "New Europe" declaration? Is there a strong anti-Pole current in France overall?

Nomad on :

Kyle, yeah, could be part of the bot :lol: not alone though ; The pole's have always played their self part so that the EU rules adapt to their psyche

Lukasz C. on :

Old Europe and New Europe was a ridiculous proclamation, where did the British fit into that grouping? They were Old Europe after all, and they are and will be the biggest ally of the US for years to come. Poland will also continue to be a huge proponent of US foreign policy, but now instead of giving away the goods for free maybe successor governments will actually drive a harder bargain, that bargain is merely a fairer deal. Poland will of course become target #1 if a missile shield ever comes online, that certainly makes the US safer, but I'm sure debate will continue on whether it makes Poland or Europe any safer.

Kinuk on :

Thanks for the email, Kyle...interesting article. I am forever amazed with Poland's love of the US and all things American. Amazed in a mixed way. I would prefer if Poland stuck to its continent and renewed and worked improving relationships in Europe and stopped looking over the ocean quite as much. It was always going to be tricker to get the Polish government on side with the missile defense system. The new government made a lot of noise of being Euro-centric during the elections and have worked (somewhat) at sticking to that since they've been elected. Since being messed around at Yalta (Curzon line, etc.) and being kept as a satellite Soviet state 1945-1989(ish) the Poles have become tougher negotiators. Good for them (us, I mean). The rest of the world can look after its own, it's about time we did the same. Time to stop being the doormat of Europe. But I think our bark is still far worse than our bite (which is more of a slobber, really). I'm tired of hearing the US refer to Poland as a partner and then treat the country as a third cousin twice removed. Being stuck next to Russia, though, we look for allies where we can find them, I guess. Personally, I don't think we need a defense system. We don't need US troops on Polish soil. The technology would be nice, though. But entry into the US without a visa would be equally nice.

Don S on :

"I'm tired of hearing the US refer to Poland as a partner and then treat the country as a third cousin twice removed. Being stuck next to Russia, though, we look for allies where we can find them, I guess." I think the visa issue is pretty inexcusable on the part of the US. I could say something about secure borders and all that, but if one actually looks at where Euro-terrorism is coming from it's Germany, France, Spain, and the UK. We're not requiring visas from the citizens of those countries so why do we require them from Poles? So your comment about third cousins is justified on that point at least. I also sympathize with Poland's desire for Patriot missiles. The question of the US contribution to NATO is a seperate one, and a lot of the problem there comes from right next door in Germany, France, Spain, etc. NATO is a mutual aid treaty, but many continental countries have cut their defense budgets to derisory levels, which leaves the US holding the bag & poaying the bill for European defense. It's not fair and not in the US national interest to continue to do that - so you can assume that we won't in the long run. Some countries are contributing. Britain and possibly Poland, Hungary, the Baltic states, etc. Others definately aren't; The German response to any given international crisis seems mostly limited to organising very large rallies denouncing all positive action as impossible & immoral, while France does the above plus encourages their 'allies' to bring it to the UN then promises a veto after they do so. The American enthusiasm for defending continental Europe is visibly waning because there is a quid but no quo. 50 years of 'quid' followed by a decade of 'no quo'. It's not Poland's fault but Poland and other countries are going to have to do something about it diplomatically inside European councils because most of your neighbors to the west don't give a damn about US participation in NATO - and it shows!

joe on :

I would suggest to the Poles they make a deal quick. If Hil-gal or Hussein become POTUS then missile defense is off the table for Europe. No need for a deal for something that is not going to happen. What will be interesting is the reaction either will have when dealing with our "allies" about doing more. As much of euroland hopes one of them will win the stress which will be brought to bear as it relates to NATO will be nothing compared to what they have seen to date. As Jorg stated 2008 but more likely 2009 is going to be a difficult year for NATO. With luck it could be the beginning of the end.

joe on :

Kind of knew this deal would get done because of the reasons stated above. What should be considered is this was done outside of the NATO framework. This means when NATO unwinds the missile will be in place to protect Poland and the US.

Marek Swierczynski on :

A few months after the above post was relevant, the situation looks gloomier and the talks are reported to be close to a stall. The hawkish approach to the deal, adopted by the Tusk government and personally by Radek Sikorski, seems to have taken Poland nowhere nearer the agreement that satisfies both parties. The emphasis on financial and military compensations for the alleged growth of risks for Poland makes the talks very difficult and the agreement almost impossible in the last months of Bush presidency. And the future is unknown as there is no clear leader in the presidential contest in the US. Mr Tusk is quite right to demand what he thinks is needed but many say there is more at stake than just a fair deal. With the previous government it seemed that Poland’s security in the long term depends on the installation of the MD elements. Now the prevailing mood seems to be: no shield - no problem. But Mr Tusk knows - or should know - that for the opposition it would be a very strong argument if he drops the shield. It would almost certainly bury his presidential bid in 2010 and very likely outpost his government in next parliamentary elections. The internal politics as well as some strategic arguments speak in favour of the MD deal even if the real currency balance seems less attractive.

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