Bush Visit Key To Poland Missile Defense Decision
U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to Poland this week will be crucial to the Eastern European country's decision on whether to host a U.S. missile defense site, the premier said. Bush and President Lech Kaczynski, the prime minister's twin brother, hold talks Friday at the president's seaside retreat. "Everything depends on this conversation," Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said on state Radio 1. Poland has opened formal talks with Washington on hosting up to 10 interceptor missiles for the U.S. defense system, while the neighboring Czech Republic has launched similar negotiations on a radar base. The U.S. plan to put missile defense facilities in Poland and Czech Republic, two formerly communist countries, has attracted fierce opposition from Russia. On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Moscow could take "retaliatory steps" if Washington insists on building the missile shield.
Lech Kaczynski, left, with his twin, JaroslawPoland's premier compared Putin's language to long-ago rhetoric from the Soviet Union. "A dispute has arisen around missile defense in words sharper than we have seen here for a long, long time," he said. "This is the kind of language that (former leader Boris) Yeltsin did not use, that (Mikhail) Gorbachev did not use and I don't remember (Leonid) Bhrezhnev using." However, Cold War-era Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev "certainly used this kind of language," he said. The prime minister called the issue "serious, because words in politics are also important." Warsaw and Prague both insist the system should enhance their own security as well. When Bush visits, he should give the Poles some "political feedback" on how seriously to take threats from Russia, and address what the U.S. can do to protect Poland from any Russian retaliation, Witold Waszczykowski, the deputy foreign minister and top Polish negotiator on the system, said last week. Poland's premier stressed that "definitely, no declarations can be made" on the future of missile defense in the country "without a serious talk, without serious consideration" of the plan. Bush has sought repeatedly to reassure Russia that it has nothing to fear from the missile defense system, designed to thwart a possible attack from Iran. Bush and Putin meet at the Group of Eight summit in Germany before the U.S. president visits Poland.