- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2007

12:10 p.m.

WARSAW (AP) — Russian opposition to a U.S. proposal to build a missile defense system in Poland stems from Moscow’s hopes to regain influence over its former satellite, Poland’s prime minister said today.

The comments by Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski came a day after a Russian general warned that Poland and the Czech Republic risk being targeted by Russian missiles if they agree to host U.S. missile defense bases.

“To make it clear — this is not about Russian security; these installations do not in any way threaten Russia,” Mr. Kaczynski said on state Radio 1. “It’s about the status of Poland, and Russian hopes that the zone — in other words, Poland — will once again find itself … in the Russian sphere of influence.

“From the moment the missile bases are installed here, the chances of that happening, for at least decades to come, very much decline,” he said.

The Soviet Union dominated Poland for 45 years, from the end of World War II until the end of the Cold War in 1989.

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of a “new Cold War” in a speech in Germany that shocked Western governments.

Mr. Kaczynski and his Czech counterpart, Mirek Topolanek, indicated yesterday that they were ready to work out the conditions under which the United States would put interceptor missiles in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic.

Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, head of the Russian missile forces, said in Moscow that the U.S. plan could upset strategic stability in the region.

“If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic take such a step … the [Russian] Strategic Missile Forces will be capable of targeting these facilities if a relevant decision is made,” he said.

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