KEY POINTS

The administration of George W. Bush signed an agreement with Poland to station 10 ground-based interceptors at a base in Poland on August 20, 2008, right after the Russian invasion of Georgia.

  • President Obama, hoping to “reset” relations with Russia, scrapped his predecessor’s deal with Poland and the Czech Republic in favor of his own reformulated “phased” approach in 2009. Many of Obama’s critics – as well as numerous Poles and Central Europeans – viewed this as appeasement and a concession to Moscow.

  • The Kremlin continues to vehemently oppose American/NATO missile defense installations in Poland and other Central and Eastern European nations, which Moscow sees as its natural sphere of influence (2009).

  • The Polish element of the Bush missile shield – a base in Redzikowo – would have been operational by 2013 had it been deployed according to schedule (2008). As a result of Obama’s policy shift, construction was delayed until 2016 and the base was to be opened in 2018. It was recently delayed until 2020 due to technical problems (2018).

  • The Trump Administration approved the sale of Patriot missiles to Poland (2018).


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH YEARS

  • Initial US-Poland talks: 2002 – 2008

    • Talks about the possibility of setting up US missile defense installations in Poland (and other European countries) between the Bush administration and several Polish governments from across the political spectrum began in 2002 (2005).
       

    • Formal negotiations between the US and Poland and the Czech Republic began in February 2007.
       

    • The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System was to consist of ten silo-based interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic (2018).

    • Immediately following the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008, Washington and Warsaw announced and (on August 20) signed an agreement on the “Deployment of Ground-Based Ballistic Missile Defense Interceptors in the Territory of the Republic of Poland.”
       

    • The US stated that the objective of the missile shield was to counter long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles launched by the Islamist regime of Iran - and other rogue actors, such as North Korea (2018).

  • Russia vehemently opposed, and continues to oppose, missile defense installations in Poland (2019). Simultaneously, the Kremlin leadership has made numerous threats towards Poland with the objective of intimidating Warsaw into submission (2016 and 2018).

    • E.g., in February 2008, Vladimir Putin threatened to deploy missiles in the Kaliningrad District, and in July 2008, Russia’s Foreign Ministry stated that if the US missile deal was ratified, Moscow “will be forced to react not with diplomatic, but with military-technical, methods” (2008). 

    • Russia feared that a Western missile shield would neutralize its nuclear deterrent - i.e. its ability to threaten its neighbors in particular, and the West in general, with nuclear strikes.


PRESIDENT OBAMA AND THE "RESET"

  • President Obama cancelled his predecessor’s missile shield on September 17, 2009

    • This was the seventieth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland in collusion with Nazi Germany (which initially attacked Poland on September 1, 1939). 

    • The official reason offered by the Obama White House was that Iran had made greater progress in developing short- and medium-range missiles rather than long-range ones (2009). 

    • The decision was widely interpreted, including in Central and Eastern Europe, as a betrayal and a concession to Russia motivated in large part by President Obama’s policy of “resetting” relations with Moscow (2009). 

    • Obama told CBS television that “if the byproduct of it is that the Russians feel a little less paranoid...then that’s a bonus” (2009).

  • Obama proposed an alternative, “phased” missile defense system in which Poland’s role would be less prominent (2009).

    • Known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), it would consist of smaller SM-3 interceptors installed first on ships in the Mediterranean (by 2011) and, later (by 2015 in Romania and by 2018 in Poland), on land (2019).

    • The new system was geared towards short- and medium-range missiles while the Bush-era missile shield was better suited to counter long-range ICBMs.

    • In March 2013, the Obama administration cancelled the final, fourth phase of the missile shield which would have deployed advanced interceptors theoretically capable of neutralizing long-range ballistic missiles. Although the White House denied that this was a move to placate Moscow, the fourth phase was the stage Russia was most opposed to (2013). Some of these most advanced missiles would have been deployed in Poland (2019).

  • The timing of missile shield deployment: Bush vs. Obama -

    • Construction on the Redzikowo base was to begin in 2009. A permanent US garrison was to be stationed there no later than 2012.

    • According to a Congressional Budget Office study from February 2009, the Bush missile shield, along with the interceptors, was to be in place by 2013 (See, e.g., pp. ix and xi).

    • The Obama administration and many mainstream media outlets claimed that the Bush-era interceptors would not have been deployed in Poland until 2018. However, CNN reported that “the United States also told Russia the system would not be operational until Iran test-fires a missile that could threaten Europe” (2008).


CURRENT SITUATION

  • The first land-based EPAA missile defense installation – in Deveselu, Romania – was opened in May 2016.

    • An early-warning radar station was opened in Malatya, Turkey in January 2012.
       

  • The construction of the Redzikowo anti-missile site – which began in May 2016 and was scheduled for completion in 2018 – has been delayed by the US until 2020 due to “technical reasons” (2018).
     

  • In the second year of the Trump Administration, after more than a decade of attempts by Warsaw, Poland was finally able to purchase Patriot missiles from the United States (2018). 

    • The March 2018 deal provides for the delivery of two batteries of Patriot missiles in 2022. 

  • The U.S. is set to pull out of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in August 2019, citing Russia’s construction of a missile that violates the Treaty (2019).

    • This action could have several consequences: namely, Russia’s creation of intermediate-range missiles aimed at Europe (2019).