Moscow has demanded an explanation from the US about its plans to station an air force base with F-16 fighters and build a missile defense system in Poland.
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has confirmed Washington’s intention to deploy a rotating US squadron of F-16s in Poland. Last December, leaders of the two countries announced the plans to establish a new permanent US air detachment. The US also intends to “build missile defenses in Poland,” Clinton said after talks with Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski.
The previous administration of President George Bush was planning to deploy elements of its missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. President Barack Obama scrapped the plans, but nevertheless promised to expand co-operation with Poland in missile defense and air defense areas.
Clinton made it clear that NATO countries support the new US plans regarding Poland. However, Russia will oppose any moves to deploy air detachments in that country. Washington and Warsaw are continuing military co-operation “despite their reset of the relations with Russia that took place last year,” Kommersant daily said, citing Russian diplomats.
It is not known when Washington will start deploying the squadron of F-16s. But the plan will complicate US talks with Russia about the creation of a joint European missile shield, Moscow’s envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said. Even now the prospects of such talks do not look bright, he told the paper.
President Dmitry Medvedev and US Vice President Joseph Biden may discuss the deployment of F-16s on March 9. Anyway, the issue “will not be left without Russia's most close attention,” Rogozin warned.
The idea of deploying an air base in Poland was first mentioned by US military officials in March 2009. However, the White House did not announce the plans until quite recently.
Clinton’s statement runs counter to the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and Russia signed in 1997, Rogozin told Interfax on Friday. The document emphasizes the alliance’s commitment to exercise restraint on strengthening its military infrastructure near Russia’s borders, he said.
Moscow has become seriously concerned over Clinton’s statement, a source in the Russian Foreign Ministry told Kommersant. “The plans on missile defense are not new, we know them and intend to discuss them as part of our European missile defense project,” he said. “But the idea of the air base requires additional explanation.”