BMD Watch: Polish PM holds out on BMD base

By MARTIN SIEFF, UPI Senior News Analyst  |  May 20, 2008 at 10:50 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 20 (UPI) -- The Polish government is hanging tough in its negotiations with the United States about building an anti-ballistic missile interceptor base on its territory.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk last Tuesday publicly dismissed U.S. efforts to close a deal on the base by mid-July as merely a negotiating tactic, the German Deutsche Welle network reported May 13.

"Unofficial and informal mutterings" were more "an element of the negotiations than a serious standpoint," Tusk was quoted by the Polish Press Agency, according to the Deutsche Welle report.

Deutsche Welle cited the Warsaw newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza as saying the Bush administration wanted to see the talks about building the base concluded by mid-July.

The U.S. government has almost completed talks with Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek of the neighboring Czech Republic to build an advanced radar tracking base that would provide guidance for the Ground-based Missile Interceptors to be deployed in Poland. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to sign the two agreements next month to allow work to start on the Czech-based radars.

However, talks with Warsaw are developing far more slowly. Tusk won Poland's general election in December and has repeatedly made clear his priority is to improve Poland's relations with Russia, and Russia is fiercely opposed to the United States building both the Polish and Czech bases.

Gazeta Wyborcza cited what it described as U.S. "sources close to the negotiations" as saying that the Tusk government should send a positive message to Washington before summer that it remains committed to permitting the ABM base to be built. Otherwise, the sources told the newspaper, the United States would find another country in which to base its GBIs.

Deutsche Welle, however, quoted Tusk as saying that the current U.S. offer to Poland to get permission to build the base was below the level that his government could agree to.

Some analysts believe that Tusk is merely holding out for more military aid from the United States before giving his approval to the plan. Deutsche Welle noted that two weeks ago, four working groups of Polish and U.S. officials were set up to explore increased U.S. funding and supplies for the regular Polish army.

Earlier this year the Democrat-controlled 110th Congress OK'd $27 million in aid to Poland, and President George W. Bush has since approved another $20 million.

Poland has claimed it cannot host the new base, which could be a prime Russian target in the event of hostilities, without getting its own air defenses upgraded by the United States first. But previous estimates for that program put the cost at only $20 million.

India sees Agni-III as deterrent to China

India has taken another giant stride toward the strategic nuclear parity it seeks with China.

On May 7 India's Defense Research and Development Organization successfully test-fired another Agni III intermediate-range ballistic missile with a range of 1,800 miles at its regular Wheeler Island test facility off the coast of Orissa in the Bay of Bengal, the Hindustan Times reported.

"The test is a complete success and has met all its mission objectives," said Avinash Chander, program director of the Agni missile system, according to the report. "The missile is now ready for induction."

The Agni-III was fired from the Integrated Test Range on Wheeler Island and hit the intended target area 13.6 minutes later after reaching an altitude of 210 miles, the report said. The missile reached its pre-designated target after flying at speeds of up to 9,500 miles per hour, it said.

A senior Indian Defense Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Hindustan Times that the missile had the range to hit targets far into northeast Asia, including anywhere in India.

It was a mark of the importance accorded to the Agni-III program that many senior Indian defense officials, including current Defense Ministry A.K. Anthony, attended the Wheeler Island launch.

The Hindustan Times said the Agni III could deliver conventional and nuclear warheads of up to 1.5 tons and that it was a two-stage missile with a solid fuel propellant.

Solid fuel propellants are far less vulnerable to being destroyed by laser attack, and they can be readied and fired far more quickly than older liquid fuel missiles, making them much less vulnerable to pre-emptive attack.

The missile is almost 50 feet long with a diameter of close to 6.5 feet, and it has a launch weight of 48 tons, the newspaper said.

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