Obama - Poland Missle
CHICAGO President-elect Obama has spoken to the president of Poland about relations between the two countries but didn't make a commitment on the multibillion-dollar missile defense program undertaken by the Bush administration, an Obama aide said Saturday.
That contrasts with a statement by Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who said Obama told him the missile defense project would continue.
The U.S. and Poland signed an agreement in August for basing American missiles in Poland as part of a shield against possible missile attacks from Iran.
A missile shield set up so close to its borders has been a sore point with Russia and has served as another dent in its battered relationship with the U.S.
On Wednesday, the day after Obama's election, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to move short-range missiles to Russia's borders with NATO allies even as the U.S. offered new proposals on nuclear arms reductions as well as missile defense. Allowing Russian observers at planned missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic were among them, U.S. officials said.
The missile defense plan received relatively little discussion during the presidential campaign. Republican candidate John McCain supported it while Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, his rival for the Democratic nomination, expressed skepticism about its effectiveness and cost.
Obama said earlier this year that the system would require much more vigorous testing to ensure it would work and justify the billions of dollars it would cost.
Obama foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough said Saturday that Obama had "a good conversation" with Kaczynski about the American-Polish alliance.
"President Kaczynski raised missile defense, but President-elect Obama made no commitment on it. His position is as it was throughout the campaign, that he supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable," McDonough said.
In a statement issued before McDonough's, Kaczynski said Obama "emphasized the importance of the strategic partnership of Poland and the United States and expressed hope in the continuation of political and military cooperation between our countries. He also said that the missile defense project would continue."
President Bush wanted construction of a European missile shield - installations would be in Poland and the Czech Republic - to begin before he left office in January with a completion date of 2012.
Under the U.S. plan, 10 interceptors would be placed in Poland and radar systems would be located in the Czech Republic. The system could identify and shoot down missiles fired by Iran at Europe or the United States.
Experts in the Defense Department believe more interceptor testing is required, according to reports over the summer. Additional tests could delay the program for years.