Poles see U.S. missile shield as insurance. Are they right?

August 21, 2008


It is hard not to view Poland’s decision to accept the U.S. missile shield in the context of tensions over Georgia – a point Russia, which loathes the project, was quick to make.

And although Warsaw and Washington dismiss the idea and diplomats say a compromise on the long-negotiated deal was hammered out before Russia’s intervention in the Caucasus, there is no smoke without fire.

The fact is that most Poles and other central Europeans reacted with alarm to the Russian invasion of Georgia because it revived often bitter memories of the iron-fisted Soviet rule of the region after World War Two.

Since the events in Georgia, polls clearly show a turnaround in public opinion in Poland from apprehension to enthusiasm for the shield.

But contrary to Moscow’s rhetoric that the 10 interceptors are seen here as a weapon against Russia, the swing in opinion reflects a shattering of a sense of security Poles enjoyed since joining the European Union and NATO in the past decade.

Suddenly close ties with the world’s largest superpower have gained in value and agreeing to host U.S. missile installations on Polish soil has become like buying an extra insurance policy in uncertain times.

Whether the rockets can indeed fly and intercept future Iranian missiles, as many experts doubt, seems to be of secondary importance to the Poles.

“I think Poland needs the shield – common sense dictates Poland needs to be closely linked with the United States,” said Jerzy Peszek, 61, an IT worker in Warsaw.

“The shield is a good decision in the context of the current global political situation, where Russia attacks Georgia,” echoed Emilia Pichta, 22, a student. “It can happen to us, too.”

For the Polish government such a mood is a godsend, admittedly with “made in Russia” printed all over it.

The government had bargained hard with the Americans and raised expectations that Poland would receive billions in return for hosting the shield.

The events in Georgia allowed Prime Minister Tusk to quietly abandon this approach and go back to the big-picture strategic view that finds favour with a majority of his countrymen.


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‘Whether the rockets can indeed fly and intercept future Iranian missiles, as many experts doubt, seems to be of secondary importance to the Poles.’ [above]

Of course Poles don’t care if the stuff can fly. As long as they got billions$ from the US they are quite happy. Why are we doing this? Do we have that much money to throw away just to aggravate Putin?

Posted by Puffin | Report as abusive

This is a great deal for Poland. However its also another strong indication of how corrupt the US congress is to approve this expenditure, which could well be drag the US into another foreign war. I would also like to see the US announce plans to withdraw from NATO.

Posted by Chris Baker (US) | Report as abusive

A U.S. missile shield in Poland is terrible. I am suprised Americans are allowing the government to do so many anti-American things. It’s time for a revolution.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

Guys, US is the #1 war profiteer in the world..
This looks a very well crafted deal for ensuring income to US in future..
Look now US will support Georgia with military requirements, which simply means about 30-40 billions over next 2 years or so.
It would be a same situation in coming days with poland.
And also US got to advertise their missile shield for other countries like Isreal to buy this technology..

Posted by Om | Report as abusive

Revolution indeed. And the Russians were just protecting those people that Georgia tried to ethnically cleanse. America is going down the tubes. Why cant those breakaway states in Georgia be free?

Posted by Doug from NH | Report as abusive

poland is an idiot for allowing u.s. to install the so call missiles system, once it’s installed, the u.s. owns poland. u.s. will back anyone and anybody that want to break away from its own country, and u.s. will provoke that to happen, think about it, if there’s 101 countries in this world, u.s. being one of them, and the other 100 countries break into 1 million little tiny countries, who’s the boss now? u.s. always claim this and that country is a terroist and not oppose them from building weapon to protect themself, but yet u.s. is constantly making newer weapons, and why people wouldn’t think u.s. will one day use it on them? u.s. is the biggest terrorist of all, and they play that democracy card and their so call freedom garbage as excuses all the time to start trouble with others.

Posted by noshow | Report as abusive

Poles had agreement in 1939 with great superpowers. They got eaten by Germans in four weeks. Good luck with this agreement. Definitely Americans are looking for the fight and they will get one soon. The fight for resources just started, so far is Russia 1 – West 0. It will be long and exhausting fight. If West is strong and united as it looks, there will be no problem for them to finish Russia, do not hesitate just start it.

Posted by Nikodem | Report as abusive

Nikodem, i’m damn glad you are not any presidents for any countries because this world does not need people like you, I would think all people, and at least personally, no one in this planet wants another World World. Maybe you have not experienced living in war time, and I have not, but I definitely don’t want to know because everyone will suffer.

Posted by noshow | Report as abusive

‘Insurance’? This would actually be humorous if it did not have implications of possible tragic future events. If Russia felt like it, the Russians can overwhelm the flimsy 10 missile ‘interceptor shield’ without even minimal exertion, and now that the Poles foolishly agreed to it, Russians might very well start to feel like it, a fact that would not have even come about had the Polish government not signed this agreement in the first place. The official White House statement about this ‘shield’ being for the benefit of Iran and Alqaeda is not even worth considering, since there are other more suitable bases for this purpose that would not risk pushing Russia over the brink. If in response to this Russia offers weapons and missile bases to Iran in response to this-as it is offering Syria- we’ll see how well this ‘shield’ worked against its supposed target. Frankly this current US administration cannot leave fast enough. Even in its death throes its still making disastrous bungles.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

Here is the dump russian thinking that even the West will bow to a crap of a military like Russia. Point out that 20,000 soldiers invaded and defeated the Geogians, but did they lose a lot and show just how disorganized they are. We will never leave NATO, it’s number 1 reason is for exactly this issue. You attack one, it’s War on all, there is no room to move from that aggrement from the US side.

Posted by 15th Marine | Report as abusive

if russia decides that they dont mind if they get into a war with NATO, then the russians might use airstrikes to destroy the intercepters. the missile sheild might even be an excuse for russia to attack poland, airstrike capability notwithstanding.

Nikodem said: “The fight for resources just started, so far is Russia 1 – West 0″

Today, the best way to aquire resourses is through diplomacy and by making friends. Damaging relations in an age where your relations with other nations are extremely important hurts both sides. russia has just damaged relations with the west big time. so its more like Russia -1 : West -1. by the way, if russia and the west get into a war, its game over for the world if they use nukes, and if they dont, then china will be the new undisputed superpower of the world with both west and russia vastly weaker.

Posted by questionist | Report as abusive

10 ‘interceptor missiles ‘ . So russia fires off 10 dummy missiles at the start of any confrontation and the 10 interceptors fire off in reply and then what ? Poland/US are out of interceptors . And then what ? If Poland thinks that these 10 missiles will force the US to come to their rescue in any situation , they should consult history . Did the US come to Poland’s rescue in 1939 ? No . The US will do only what serves it’s own interests , and when it serves the USA’s interests to turn away from Poland’s defence in a crisis , that is exactly what they will do .

Posted by Realist | Report as abusive

People, Poles included, need to look at the big picture. The bottom line is, this so-called ‘shield’ benefits no one. Poland being a part of NATO or not is irrelevant and all this high-sounding you-attack-Poland-you-attack-all-Nato rhetoric is beside the point. The US gains nothing from this flimsy inaccurate deterrent -if it can be called that, NATO gains nothing from escalating conflict with Russia over it, and Poland obviously is not more secure with it. I suppose Poland might get some American ‘Bakshish’ money in the form of loans and investment, but you can be sure the Russians will find a way to get back at them and counter it. This is all so foolhardy there are no words to describe how.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

The truth is that the VAST majority of Poles are opposed to U.S. missiles in Poland and do not agree with the Polish government allowing them there!!

Posted by Professor M. | Report as abusive

Our United States needs to stop meddling in the affairs of other nations and mind its own business. The Bush administration has made a shambles of our own country — diplomatically, politically, economically, and socially. Bush’s warmongering and threats of more war, his lies and deceit, and Bush administration corruption are turning my country into more and more of a disgrace everyday before the entire world.

Posted by Concerned American | Report as abusive

Arming Poland with an anti-missile defense system is even more provocative and insulting than NATO expansion into the former Soviet Bloc. While the US and Poland ought to be free to do what they want, we all live in a world where nations have histories, interests, and atavistic feelings. Simply doing what we wish is no guarantee that our actions will yield positive results. America’s threatening encirclement of Russia from Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Turkey, Israel, Kurdistan, Iraq, Georgia, Afghanistan, several bases in the former Soviet Republic in Central Asia, and over 900 military bases worldwide may not be threatening in the eyes of most Americans, but what if Russia started putting bases and missile shields in Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Jamaica, Grenada, and elsewhere in Lain America. We have our atavistic Monroe Doctrine and Russia has its own primitive and aggressive heritage. If America actually wishes to act like a world leader, Americans should start to act like citizens of the world in order to truly guide the world to a less primitive future. Sadly, the Russians can simply point to US actions in Iraq, Kosovo, and more than forty other military actions since WWII. Unfortunately, American citizens cannot imagine that their country is an aggressive bully. Putin is a certainly a thug and its neighbors have genuine fears but America and its distracted is a greater to world peace due to American power and the apathy and ignorance of its people.

Posted by Michael B. Loughlin | Report as abusive


Putin is a certainly a thug and Russia’s neighbors have genuine fears but America and its distracted people are a greater threat to world peace due to American power and the apathy and ignorance of its citizens.

Posted by Michael B. Loughlin | Report as abusive

The US purposely created this problem and the Poles have fallen for it. It is high time that the EU had a 2 tier membership leaving irresponsible countries like Poland in the 2nd part with fewer votes and privileges. The main EU body should deal direct with Russia leaving the US out of it.

Posted by guacamaya | Report as abusive

It is far from clear what we gain by this “investment” in Poland. I feel we need a lot more checks and balances, and public scrutiny, for these types of decisions that affect us as well as everyone else long-term.

Posted by bmwshop | Report as abusive

Cant really understand if Bush is very intelligent or very dumb..
What does he want to show with donating missile shield to Poland ?? Russia has a first strike policy meaning russians will not wait for others others to attack to retaliate, russian law allows them to start attacking..
Russis could choose the year ending time when US lawmakers are busy in choosing next president.. It could be US that is vulnarable or just poland waiting to get skin peeled off from russia during US administration changes.

Posted by Om | Report as abusive

The Poles know that the ABM missiles will not protect Poland. What will protect Poland is Americans protecting their ABM missiles.

Unless the Russians go completely insane and launch a full scale nuclear attack. In which case we are facing a lunatic in charge of several thousand nuclear weapons, and are doomed whatever we do.

(The Americans, of course, gain a bit of insurance against a very small scale attack, such as Iran might be capable of.)

Posted by ad | Report as abusive

To Michael B. Loughlin

Very well said.

Very interesting that only one on here even mentions the threat of rogue states such as Iran, The OFFICIAL line!
Why then should we expect the Russians to be fooled as to the real purpose?
If Putin is a student of history, I would expect this to turn into a rematch of the Cuban missile crisis, revenge for JFK forcing Russia to stand down, Bush has certainly presented the opportunity, trouble is he is probably to thick know how to stand down.

Posted by ryzer | Report as abusive

In this election year, it is very much in the interest of the Republicans and their neocon backers to needle Russia into doing something foolish. They can then pose as hairy-chested warriors for Freedom and Democracy as opposed to the limp-wristed Democrats, and thus gain a whole lot of votes.

Posted by Steve Brook | Report as abusive