US backs away from Poland's NATO base push
PR dla Zagranicy
A US State Department official has ruled out the possibility of a decision being taken at Warsaw's July 2016 NATO summit about a prospective permanent alliance base in Poland.
The Polish government has been pushing for several months for the construction of a permanent NATO base on Polish soil, in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis.
“We want to avoid a serious dispute within the alliance,” said John A. Heffern, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, in an interview with the Rzeczpospolita daily.
Although Heffern did not name countries, Germany has opposed the construction of permanent bases.
The 1997 NATO-Russian Pact stipulated that such bases cannot be built in new member states (Poland joined NATO in 1999 with the Czech Republic and NATO, followed by seven more countries in 2004).
However, Heffern has said that NATO will continue its rotational programme of troops within the region.
“We will stay with you for as long as is necessary,” he said.
Missile defence system to go ahead
Meanwhile, Heffern has said that an American missile defence system will still be built in Poland, and that construction should be completed at Redzikowo.
An agreement for a larger system was initially signed in 2008, but the plan was shelved by President Barack Obama's incoming administration.
The US consistently argued that the shield was to protect countries in the region against Iran, although Russian leader Vladimir Putin vigorously opposed the system from the outset.
The US continues to claim that modified shield is a means of protection against Iran, in spite of the freshly signed deal to curb Iran's nuclear capabilities.
“The agreement with Tehran does not cover missiles, the threat remains,” Heffern said, while acknowledging that technically the Iranian missiles can no longer be fitted with nuclear warheads. (nh)