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Georgia Conflict Gives Boost to European Missile Defense Talks

A poll by Opinion Research Corporation finds a strong majority of Americans support missile defense, as reported by Market Watch:
A national poll released today revealed that 87 percent of the American Public believes that the United States should have a missile defense system. The public survey showed that 58% of the American Public thinks that there is a real threat from missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction and that missile defense is the preferred option over pre-emptive military action or diplomatic efforts for dealing with the proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction by nation states.
This is an astonishingly high number considering the broad opposition to missile defense in Europe, and the reluctance to embrace it by several leading Democrats, including Barack Obama.

It will be interesting to see if Russia’s intervention into Georgia will increase or decrease European support for US systems.  Initial reports suggest Russia’s actions have provoked a renewed sense of urgency into recently stagnant negotiations between Poland and the United States.  According to the Financial Times:
Talks on building part of a US missile defence shield on Polish soil restarted on Wednesday, with Polish officials sending much more positive signals than recently, in part because of fears awakened by the Russian attack on Georgia.

The fighting between Russia and Georgia appears to have made the benefits of having a permanent US troop presence on Polish soil more apparent to Warsaw. US negotiators are also interested in strengthening security ties with Poland.
Talks stalled over Polish demands that the US beef up Polish domestic defenses, including with expensive Patriot interceptors, in order to place US missile defense systems on Polish territory.  However, Polish political leaders argue that Russia’s intervention against Georgia has provided substance to its demands, as reported by the Associated Press:
Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Tuesday the attacks in Georgia justified Poland's demand for additional security guarantees if it accepts a U.S. installation.

"The increase in international tension that we are dealing with now, but which we had not expected, makes the security guarantees ... an issue even more important than before," [Polish Foreign Minister] Sikorski said.
Russia has strongly opposed US missile defense systems based in Poland and the Czech Republic, which it sees as a security threat.  It is interesting that Russia's incursion into Georgia has emboldened Poland and the United States to push forward with missile defense plans, rather than making them “think twice” before moving ahead with the controversial project. 

Polish-American Relations Regarding Iraq, Iran, Russia and NATO

At my day job at Atlantic Community, we have published quite a few interesting articles on US-Polish issues. Polish perspectives are under-reported in the German and American mass media, but they are important because Poland is one of Europe's bigger countries, is considered very Pro-American and was seen as the primary "New Europe" country, a term that is less frequently used these days, but is still controversial.

Marek Swierczynski, a journalist at the Polish TV channel TVP, reflects on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war:

Poland's decision to join the "coalition of the willing" has left the military stretched beyond capacity, the society in serious mistrust of their leaders and perception of a joint effort for a good cause seriously damaged. It took 25 lives 5 years and 3 governments to rethink and withdraw.

Ryan R. Miller of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington, DC. writes about Poland's Iran Option:

Possible Polish-Iranian energy cooperation puts U.S. policy makers between a rock and a hard place, as America finds itself committed both to isolating the Islamic Republic and supporting Polish efforts to outflank Russia's Gazprom.

Wess Mitchell, who is the Director of Research at CEPA, outlines recent developments between the United States and Poland regarding the US missile defense program. He concludes that relations between Poland and Russia are likely to deteriorate and Tusk may have compromised himself by acting so decisively this early in his term: Missile Defense: Poland Has Less Room to Maneuver.

Anna Nadgrodkiewicz sums up contentious issues in Polish-American relations: Polish troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the necessity of easing visa requirements, and the proposed missile defense shield. See her article Managing Image and Expectations.

Marek Swierczynski  sees NATO at a Crossroad in a second article:

Just before the NATO summit in Bucharest, the differences on what and how the Alliance should do in the future seem all but rising on both sides of the Atlantic. The Warsaw conference on NATO's Transformation made fundamental divides clearly visible. (...) The new NATO members seem to live in a Neverland. Professor Kuzniar assessed that the Alliance is the only force of global reach and capabilities. Wrong. There is no such thing as NATO global capability. There is the US global capability and to be more precise it is one of the US Navy.

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.