Poland asked US about missile shield uses: WikiLeaks

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The US told Poland that a proposed American and NATO missile shield aimed at defending against attacks from Iran or Syria could be used to stop "missiles coming from elsewhere," US cables released by WikiLeaks showed Tuesday.

Despite repeated claims that the shield is not aimed at deterring attacks from Russia, the correspondence suggests US officials have considered broader uses for the defence system than they have publicly let on.

During the administration of former US president George W. Bush, Poland agreed to take part in a proposed missile defence system, a scheme that sparked a crisis between the US and Russia.

US President Barack Obama has abandoned the project and a more modest system is being developed, with the Russians invited to take part.

Alexander Vershbow, the assistant defence secretary for international security, offered the Poles a role in the new project in November last year by hosting a missile system, according to the leaked US embassy cables.

The Poles asked "a series of hypothetical questions on the adaptive nature of the system vis-a-vis the changing threat."

"With regard to how NATO might defend itself from missiles coming from elsewhere than Iran or Syria, BG John Hesterman of the joint staff said that sea-borne platforms could provide surge capability against threats from an unforeseen direction," the US embassy in Warsaw reported after the meeting.

He also said that "land-based sites could be upgraded with more interceptors if the scale of the threat were increased, and radars could be reoriented," according to the cables.

The dispatches also reveal continued nervousness about Russia and a clear enthusiasm on the part of Poland for achieving a "large US military footprint" in the country.

"How long will it take you to realise that nothing will change with Iran and Russia?" a Polish presidential aide asks visiting US senators in May last year.

The US embassy reported: "Most important for Poland is US involvement in Polish security, through physical presence of American forces in Poland, Nato facilities in Poland, fulfilling the commitment to provide Patriot missiles." Last year, Vershbow offered Warsaw a range of military support options, which included sending F-16s to the country and the relocation of a US naval facility from Germany to Poland.

© 2010 AFP

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