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Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland

Anti-Missile Shield in Poland
Still Under Question

By Mariusz Zawadzki

Translated By Maciej Lepka

12 February 2013

Edited by Kyrstie Lane

Poland - Gazeta Wyborcza - Original Article (Polish)

Although Washington has not made crucial decisions regarding the anti-missile shield, Stanislaw Koziej, Chief of the National Security Bureau, is right on the money when he points out that some action has to be taken sooner rather than later. “The United States’ stance does not change – the shield in Poland will be finished according to schedule. There is no report from the Pentagon. Perhaps there is an unconfirmed report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office?” tweeted Stephen Mull, U.S. ambassador to Poland, in response to the rumors that the anti-rocket shield project has hit a brick wall and its completion is touch and go at the moment.

The source of the disconcert, the Associated Press agency, has gotten hold of the actual report issued by the Government Accountability Office, the audit arm of Congress evaluating the government’s expenditures. The findings, in turn, are based on several studies, including one by the Pentagon, that endeavor to answer the question of whether the anti-missile shields to be installed in Romania (2015) and Poland (2018) will be capable of destroying rockets directed at the U.S. The results indicate that the two sites lie too close to Iran, and therefore it might be too late before the system can identify a threat and launch a missile to prevent it. Everything would be much simpler if the shields were installed further from potentially existing Iranian launchers, on the destroyers roaming the North Sea.

“It is yet another signal that there is no way that the U.S. will build the shield in Poland,” said the Chief of the National Security Bureau, General Stanislaw Koziej, on Sunday.

Mull and Koziej’s opinions do not contradict themselves. In fact, both gentlemen are on the mark. The former speaks about the present – the current U.S. plans and obligations – while the latter ponders what the future holds. The change of plans cannot be ruled out, especially given the U.S. financial problems.

The public debt has risen to $16.5 trillion, which is more than the annual national income of the country, and, to cap it all, has been increasing exponentially by $1.5 trillion a year. Politicians have been making futile attempts to rectify the situation for a few years. They look for savings in the gargantuan defense budget, which eats up nearly one third of the annual tax revenue.

In 2011, Congress and President Obama worked together to reduce it by over $500 billion during the next decade. Moreover, the agreement was hammered out so that if there is no plausible idea for another cutback by 2013, the defense budget will be lowered by another $500 billion. This second phase is to come into operation on March 1. It looks like the American military will have $1 trillion less at their disposal than they were promised less than two years ago.

What is more, Chuck Hagel, who lately said that the budget is “in many ways bloated,” will be, in all probability, the new secretary of defense. It is hard to argue with that opinion as the U.S. defense budget is only slightly lower than that of all the countries in the world put together. Despite that, Hagel’s assertion came in for criticism in the capitol and was hailed as highly controversial. If he does take over the aforementioned position, it will serve as conclusive proof that we are past the times when the Pentagon’s budget was taken for granted.

There have already been several cutbacks in the matters of utmost importance. According to experts, the government, which placed an order for 2500 F-35 fighter planes, will have to decrease it by half.

A week ago, the Navy announced that there would be only one aircraft carrier sailing in the Persian Gulf, instead of two which had patrolled the waters for the last few years. The Gulf constitutes a very crucial territory due to its abundance in oil as well as the dispute over the Iranian nuclear program. Consequently, the USS Harry Truman carrier’s departure from the base in Norfolk was called off at the very last moment.

The Navy also warned that if the March 1 cutbacks come into force it will stop sending ships to the waters surrounding Middle and South America and Europe, barring Aegis destroyers, which are part of the anti-missile system built in Europe.

It might come as a surprise to a layman that as many as two destroyers were needed in the Gulf; one should be enough to keep Iran in check. And that seems to be the new tendency: all doubtful expenditures made by the Pentagon, which nobody dared question before, will be cut off.

If, at some point, doubts arise about some element of the anti-rocket shield, it will share the fate of USS Harry Truman. According to the Associated Press, the Government Accountability Office report’s only reservations concern the last phase of the project, which is supposed to be carried out in about 2021. Specifically, there is no certainty that the Aegis system will be improved so that it could destroy intercontinental missiles.

There is no denying that Aegis launchers, both on the destroyers and ashore, are successful against mid-range missiles. It has been confirmed by numerous tests. Therefore, the European anti-missile system will surely come into being so as to safeguard the NATO countries and American military bases in Europe. However, only when the launchers are installed in Poland will we actually know whether our country has a role to play in this scheme.

General Koziej Does Not Believe in the Shield

“There will be no anti-rocket shield guarding the U.S. in Poland,” asserts Chief of the National Security Bureau, General Stanislaw Koziej, noting that this is “his personal opinion.” As he said in an interview Sunday, this is another reason that “we should apply ourselves to building our own and NATO anti-missile shield.” First, a shield protecting Europe from close and mid-range rockets, which should be finished by 2018, then an intercontinental shield after 2020.

Koziej brings our attention to numerous signals coming from the U.S. (such as the spring 2012 accidental statement by President Obama that he will “exercise more flexibility” in this matter after the elections, which was like honey to Dmitry Medvedev’s ears) as well as unofficial information about technical and financial difficulties the North American country is coping with. Originally, it was planned that the U.S. would be protected by the next generation SM-3 Block II missiles with maneuvering warheads capable of intercepting missiles in space. However, the development work is strewn with difficulties and the U.S. has not been particularly forthcoming about spending large sums on armaments for the last few years.



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