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Poles not surprised by missile defense decision

The decision by the Obama administration to pull the plug on the missile defense shield program did not cause much surprise in Poland, where the government has long been aware of the new administration’s lack of enthusiasm for the project.

“I would not call what happened today a defeat for Poland,” said Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister. The defense shield program, agreed to by Poland last August during the war between Russia and Georgia, would have seen a 10-missile interceptor base built in the north of the country.

However for Poland the key was that the base would permanently base U.S. troops on its soil. Poles had been unconvinced by the U.S. argument that the system was needed to protect Europe from a possible attack from a rogue state like Iran. “Iran is no enemy of ours,” said a Polish official recently. Instead, Poland saw the base as a way of beefing up its security against a possible threat from a resurgent Russia.

Although Poland has been a member of NATO since 1999, the Atlantic alliance has no bases on the territory of the former Soviet satellite. Poles are hoping that the U.S. will still base some soldiers in Poland, despite Washington’s change of focus. After speaking with Obama, Tusk said he hoped for an “exclusive” relationship with the U.S.