War in Georgia pushes Washington closer to meeting Poland’s conditions on missile defense

Polish and U.S. negotiators were wrapping up their latest round of talks Thursday on a proposed U.S. missile defense base, and Poland's defense minister said the war in Georgia has pushed Washington closer to meeting Warsaw's conditions.

Talks about the U.S. plan to build a missile interceptor base in northern Poland have stalled over Polish demands for additional security guarantees - demands that Poland says are justified given the fighting between Russia and Georgia.

Defense Minister Bogdan Klich said a deal could be concluded soon.

"We are really at the finish line of these talks because the Americans have become more open to our demands," Klich was quoted as saying in an interview in the daily Dziennik. "But above all, it seems that the Americans have changed their view due to the situation in the Caucasus."

"In the eyes of Washington, this conflict has proven that Russia isn't a stable partner for the States and continues to consider its international surroundings as its exclusive sphere of influence."

Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, who is leading the negotiations for Poland, said before heading into talks with chief U.S. negotiator John Rood late Wednesday that the "unexpected increase in international tension makes the security guarantees ... an issue even more important than before."

Washington wants to place 10 interceptor missiles in northern Poland and a linked radar tracking base in the neighboring Czech Republic. The Czech government has agreed to a deal, but faces a battle to win parliamentary approval.

Moscow has said that the planned U.S. facilities are aimed at undermining Russia's own missile potential, and has threatened an unspecified "military technical" response.

Citing that threat, Poland has demanded the permanent stationing of U.S. Patriot missiles in Poland and U.S. aid for Polish air defenses. It rejected a previous offer of a temporary lease of Patriot missiles.

Wojciech Olejniczak, a leading member of an ex-communist opposition party, said that a U.S. base "is unnecessary and will hurt Poland's security."

Olejniczak, the head of the Democratic Left Alliance party in parliament's lower house, said that stressing the Russian factor "will be a tragedy for us all because it will mean that Polish-Russian relations, already very poor, will be completely ruined."

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