Sunday, December 13, 2009

US, Poland Sign Deal On Stationing GIs

U.S. and Polish officials signed a deal Friday to regulate the stationing of American troops and military equipment in the eastern European country, paving the way for a U.S. military presence in the heart of the former Soviet bloc. The step is a prerequisite for the deployment of U.S. Patriot missiles to Poland, which is expected early next year. It is also to serve as the legal framework for a possible future missile defense site. Defense Minister Bogdan Klich hailed the so-called status of forces agreement, which he said will increase Poland's security and strengthen U.S.-Polish military cooperation. "It's an important moment in the cooperation between the U.S. and Poland," Klich said, adding the deal "reflects our interests well." The signing came after 15 months of negotiations, with the stickiest points revolving around issues of taxation and discussions over which country would have the right to try any U.S. soldiers who commit crimes off-base. The two sides agreed that any wrongdoing committed by a U.S. soldier off base and off duty would fall under Polish jurisdiction, Poland's deputy defense minister, Stanislaw Komorowski, told reporters.Polish courts would also decide on any U.S. request to transfer a case to American jurisdiction. He said it is rare for the U.S. to grant such powers to a host nation and called it a success for Poland's negotiators. However, U.S. companies supporting the base will only be subject to U.S. taxation, Komorowski said. Wary of neighboring Russia, Poland welcomes stronger military ties with the U.S. Still, it's very sensitive about sharing jurisdiction over parts of its territory - a legacy of the stationing of Soviet troops in Poland during the communist era. Washington plans to deploy a U.S. Patriot anti-missile battery that will be used for training the Polish military. The garrison, in a yet unnamed location, is to eventually have about 100 U.S. military personnel. The Patriot garrison was a Polish condition for a 2008 deal to host long-range missile defense interceptors. The deal, which was struck by the Bush administration, angered Russia and was later reconfigured under President Barack Obama's administration. Under the Obama plan, Poland would host a different type of missile defense interceptors as part of a more mobile system and at a later date, probably not until 2018.