US, Poland status of forces pact deepens military cooperation
The US, Poland status of forces pact signed Friday allows deployment of a missile defense system to go forward. An earlier proposal for a more robust missile system had drawn the ire of Russia.
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Russia’s hostility toward the antimissile shield was considered a major factor in Obama decision to water down the project. Declarations by Polish and Czech politicians that anti-missile defense and the stationing of US troops on their soil was security against Russian aggression did not help Washington convince Moscow that the shield’s prime objective was to secure US territory and troops abroad from attacks.Skip to next paragraph
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Various commentators at home and abroad also accused the president of yielding to Russian pressure in exchange for support on Iran and Afghanistan.
”The Obama administration seems to be nurturing a false impression that Russia has a major influence over Iran, which isn’t even halfway true,” says Dmitry Babich, a political commentator with Russia Profile magazine. “In fact, in its relations with Moscow, Tehran behaves as if the two were equal partners. For Iran, cooperating with Russia is nothing more than a temporary necessity.”
The new antimissile defense is less likely to spur criticism from the Kremlin. Contrary to the Bush-era plans, which designed the Poland-based facilities to include nuclear warhead-delivering intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the system will counter only short- and medium-range missiles. Its main aim would be to halt the rapid buildup of Iran’s armaments, as it is estimated that Tehran is presently working on developing missiles of the same range.
“Russian foreign policy is reluctant toward any alteration of the balance of power in Europe,” argues Mr. Babich. “If Russian officials say, as did Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, that the new anti-missile defense is acceptable to Russia, it is because they don’t have the impression that US plans could alter the European status quo to a great extent.”
The signing of a Status of Forces Agreement between the US and foreign governments is a prerequisite for stationing American troops abroad. The accord establishes the framework for the US. troops’ stay, including the taxes to be paid by the US for the military base and the terms of jurisdiction over American troops, should criminal charges be filed against them.
“It was virtually the most important provision that we wanted to obtain. The American side expected us to drop this claim, but finally, we’ve established that in every case, the Polish justice system will be given the priority of jurisdiction over crimes committed by U.S. troops on Polish soil,” Poland’s Deputy Defense Minister Komorowski told the Rzeczpospolita daily. “However, on the US government’s special request and in extraordinary circumstances, we may decide not to use this power,” he added.