Polish Missile-Defense as Protection Racket

Should the reports of a relocation of European-based missile defense prove true, expect to hear a lot more along the lines of this coming out of Eastern Europe, from the NY Times article:

“It is clear that Eastern Europe is out of the epicenter of thisAmerican administration,” said Piotr Paszkowski, a spokesman forPoland’s foreign minister.

Just keep in mind that driving the aggrieved laments, of course, is not so much a profound sense of abandonment or betrayal, but rather profound concerns over money. Poland is in the midst of a major and sorely needed defense modernization, reflecting its increasing ambitions for its role in both NATO and EU defense. Current plans include privatizing its army, updating its Soviet-era weaponry and achieving higher levels of interoperability both with NATO and EU defense forces. But all of that will take time and money. In the meantime, Poland’s army chief was recently forced to resign after speaking out publicly about the equipment delays plaguing its Afghanistan mission. (For an in-depth examination of Polish defense and national security posture, check out WPR’s latestStrategic Posture Review, which just happens to spotlight Poland. It’savailable to WPR subscribers here, and non-subscribers can purchase it as a one-off here.)

Remember, too, that back when the negotiations for the Polish missile installation hit a snag under the Bush administration, it was because the Poles were setting a higher price tag in terms of U.S. military grants and aid that they expected for housing the site ($3 billion, if memory serves correctly) than even the Bush-Cheney gang was willing to pay. Now, if all protection rackets worked this way, organized crime would not be nearly so unpopular with local mom and pop stores. But in the real world, it’s generally the guys doing the protection that pocket the loot, not the guys getting the protection. Indeed, the major cash incentives the Poles expected for the deal were always the tipoff that it had nothing to do with protecting them, and everything to do with the Bush administration’s theological devotion to missile defense.

Again, should these reports prove true, it will actually be quite a positive development, and not least of all for the Poles. As NATO members, they have very little real concern about Russian belligerence, and stand a lot more to lose from heightened U.S.-Russia tensions than from a more cooperative atmosphere.

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