WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The Bush administration's plans to build and deploy an anti-ballistic missile interceptor base in Poland took another body blow Monday when Poland's new defense minister said in a newspaper interview he opposed the idea.
Defense Minister Bogdan Klich told the newspaper Dziennik in an interview published Monday his government was going reassess the issue. That could throw a spanner in the negotiating process that had begun between Washington and the previous Polish government led by Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Klich's comments were particularly remarkable as they were published only three days after the new Polish government led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk came to power.
Nor does it appear that Klich was shooting from the hip. Tusk had made one of the planks of his successful election campaign a determination to take a more independent and critical stance toward Washington than the strongly pro-American Kaczynski did.
Tusk takes office riding high with a 55 percent approval rating in recent polls, and with a broad mandate to bring in sweeping social reforms to bring the country into line with the norm in its more prosperous Western European partners in the European Union.
But Klich's comments are a body blow to the Bush administration's grand strategy on dealing with Central Europe. A prime building block in that strategy was the plan to build the ABM facility that would guard the United States and Western Europe against the future potential threat of nuclear-capable intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles that could be fired from Iran.
Bush administration policymakers had long counted on Central European nations like Poland and the neighboring Czech Republic, historically fearful of Russia and grateful to the United States for bringing about the collapse of communism, as more reliable and enthusiastic long-term strategic partners than nations such as France and Germany, whose recent leaders were highly critical of the decision to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein.
However, today, pro-American leaders Angela Merkel in Berlin and Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris guide Germany and France, while the natural pendulum of democratic politics has brought governments more skeptical and critical of U.S. policies to power in some Central European nations.
Klich's comments also come less than two weeks after Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., chair of the key House Strategic Forces Subcommittee, came out clearly against approving the funding to build the Polish interceptor base.
That means the White House and the Pentagon now have a two-front political struggle ahead of them to convince Tauscher and her Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill and Polish Defense Minister Klich.
It looks like an uphill struggle.
Pentagon OK's Patriot upgrades for Taiwan
The U.S. Department of Defense has informed Congress that it may sell Taiwan an upgrade to its Patriot missile defense systems, Radio Taiwan International reported Nov. 11.
The program could be worth $1 billion to U.S. contractors, led by Lockheed Martin, which builds the Patriot.
The Pentagon believes China already has deployed around 1,000 short-range missiles to threaten Taiwan.
RTI said the Department of Defense's Defense Security Cooperation Agency said Taipei wanted to boost the capabilities of three Patriot batteries.
Taiwan's Parliament finally lifted its block on buying Patriot PAC-3 missiles from the United States in June. That move ended a four-year deadlock between the Taiwanese government over buying an ambitious high-tech order from the United States of 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine-warfare aircraft, eight diesel-electric submarines, six Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile-defense batteries and upgrades to Taiwan's older PAC-2 ABM interceptor batteries.
There were reports at the time that the U.S. State Department continued to oppose implementation of the deal to deter Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian from holding a referendum on Taiwan's entry into the United Nations. The Pentagon has long supported selling Taiwan the Patriot upgrades.
NG picks Alexander to spearhead USAF SMC biz
Northrop Grumman said Tuesday it had selected Edward T. Alexander to be its new corporate lead executive for company business with the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles.
"As corporate lead executive, Alexander will serve as the principal corporate point of contact for all Northrop Grumman business with SMC and will promote and coordinate the activities of all Northrop Grumman sectors supporting SMC business and community interests," the company said.
"The SMC is the Air Force's primary space acquisition center," said Bob Helm, corporate vice president of government relations. "Ed's extensive experience with a broad range of Air Force space programs will help him effectively represent the combined capabilities of Northrop Grumman to this very important customer."
Northrop Grumman said that before Alexander joined it in 2003, he had "a 24-year career in the Air Force, primarily in acquisition of space and missile defense systems, with assignments to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force and multiple program office assignments including his final assignment as system program director of the Space Superiority Wing at SMC."
"He has received numerous awards and decorations, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and multiple Meritorious Service medals," the company said.