Poland is 'vulnerable to attack' from Russia

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The Independent Online

A top Russian general said Friday that Poland's agreement to accept a US missile defense battery exposes the country to attack, pointing out that Russian military doctrine permits the use of nuclear weapons in such a situation, the Interfax news agency reported.

The statement by Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn is the strongest threat that Russia has issued against the plans to put missile defense elements in former Soviet satellite nations.



On Thursday, Poland and the U.S. signed a deal for Warsaw to accept a missile defense battery as part of a system Washington says is aimed at blocking attacks by rogue nations. Moscow, however, says it is aimed at weakening Russia.



"Poland, by deploying (the system) is exposing itself to a strike — 100 percent," Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of staff, was quoted as saying.



He added, in clear reference to the agreement, that Russia's military doctrine sanctions the use of nuclear weapons "against the allies of countries having nuclear weapons if they in some way help them," Interfax reported. Nogovitsyn said that would include elements of strategic deterrence systems, the news agency said.



President Dmitry Medvedev said the deal "absolutely clearly demonstrates what we had said earlier — the deployment has the Russian Federation as its target."



However, speaking at news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he appeared to take a softer position than Nogovitsyn's, saying "it is sad news for all who live on this densely populated continent, but it is not dramatic."



At a news conference earlier Friday, Nogovitsyn had reiterated Russia's frequently stated warning that placing missile-defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic would bring an unspecified military response. But his subsequent reported statement substantially stepped up a war of words.



Tensions between Russia and the West have soared over the brutal fighting that erupted last week between Russian and Georgian forces over the separatist Georgian region of South Ossetia.



Russian forces went deep into Georgia in the fighting, raising wide concerns that Russia could be seeking to occupy parts of its small, pro-U.S. neighbor, which has vigorously lobbied to join NATO, or even to force its government to collapse.



Under the agreement that Warsaw and Washington reached Thursday, Poland will accept an American missile interceptor base.



"We have crossed the Rubicon," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said, referring to U.S. consent to Poland's demands after more than 18 months of negotiations.



Washington says the planned system, which is not yet operational, is needed to protect the U.S. and Europe from possible attacks by missile-armed "rogue states" like Iran. The Kremlin, however, feels it is aimed at Russia's missile force and warns it will worsen tensions.



In an interview on Poland's news channel TVN24, Tusk said the U.S. agreed to help augment Poland's defenses with Patriot missiles in exchange for placing 10 missile defense interceptors in the Eastern European country.



He said the deal also includes a "mutual commitment" between the two nations to come to each other's assistance "in case of trouble."



That clause appeared to be a direct reference to Russia.



Poland has all along been guided by fears of a newly resurgent Russia, an anxiety that has intensified with Russia's offensive in Georgia. In past days, Polish leaders said that fighting justified Poland's demands that it get additional security guarantees from Washington in exchange for allowing the anti-missile base on its soil.

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