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Re-Launching the Missile Debate

WASHINGTON, DC -- The debate between the United States and Russia over US plans to deploy ballistic missile defenses in Europe is heating up again. Persistent differences with Poland over its conditions for accepting defensive interceptor missiles have led American officials to hint that they might consider Lithuania as an alternative deployment site. This shift appears aimed at pressuring Poland into showing greater flexibility in the negotiations, but the idea of America establishing military bases in a country that was once part of the Soviet Union has raised the Kremlin’s ire.

In June, the chief US negotiator on the issue, John Rood, flew to Lithuania to brief its government on the status of the Polish-American negotiations. America is seeking to deploy ten interceptor missiles in Poland and an advanced missile defense radar station in the Czech Republic. This week Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Prague to sign an agreement with the Czechs, the Polish-American talks, however, remain stalemated.

Although the US State Department has declined to characterize Rood’s discussions in Vilnius as formal negotiations over a possible alternative site, the Department of Defense acknowledged that America was considering other options should the talks with Poland remain deadlocked.

Lithuanian Defense Minister Juozas Olekas, while affirming that he expected Poland and America to reach a deal, added that, “Lithuania would consider the possibility of participating in the anti-missile shield if asked. We should consider all the pluses and minuses.”