Well, they’ve gone and done it. Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed the so-called anti-missile shield deal which gives the go-ahead for a US missile defence system to be built and deployed on Polish territory.
The anti-missile shield has proved extremely controversial within Poland pitting politicians from the left and right against each other. The idea was initially pushed forward by Polish President Lech Kaczyński and former Polish PM and the President’s twin brother Jarosław Kaczyński. Current PM Donald Tusk and his party Civic Platform (PO) were initially sceptical and anxious that the former Law and Justice (PiS) government were far too eager to clinch a deal without negotiating more for Poland. After PO came to power the deal was perpetually in the balance in a long-running on/off saga.
Signed and Sealed
However, Donald’s Tusk team proved to be wily negotiators and demanded a better deal for Poland otherwise they would pull out of negotiations. In fact, the Polish PM said on numerous occasions that a deal would only be struck on Poland’s terms. They upped the ante and pushed for US assurances of extra security for Poland together with a batch of Patriotic missiles. Tusk was quoted as saying that negotiations were conducted in a friendly atmosphere but were very tough.
Controversy still surrounds the US missile defence system within and without Poland with many commentators and leftist politicians unable to see any positives that might stem from the deal. Many believe that the anti-missile shield will place Poland on the front line in the fight against terrorism. The Polish government as well as President Kaczyński believe that this is a new era for Poland, an era of increased security and a deeper alliance with the US. After decades of subordination by the Germans, Russians (Prussians and Austrians) who can blame the Polish for wanting to feel safe.
However, Russia is still reeling from losing an important player in what they believe to be their sphere of influence. A host of notable Russian politicians and leaders have vented their frustrations. Vladimir Putin went on record with a plethora of poorly-masked threats thrown in Poland’s direction and most recently Russian Chief of Staff General Nogovitsyn said that this move by the Poles could not go unpunished. Most commentators are outraged by these comments. Who on earth does Russia think it is?
Both Poland and the US have assured Russia that the anti-missile shield is a defence system and cannot be used to attack, only to intercept missiles, however we cannot fail to notice the timing of the signing of the deal so soon after Russia’s attack on Georgia. The US, NATO and the EU have all denounced Russia’s actions and the US missile defence system can be seen as a closing of ranks. Perhaps, this is the solidarity that Poland has been so eager to promote since joining the EU and NATO.