The Future of US Missile Defense in Poland

[NOTE: The Federation of American Scientists is delighted to have a Scoville Fellow this year, Ms. Katarzyna (Kasia) Bzdak. Kasia comes to FAS from Columbia University has been following the Polish language press since before the recent national elections there and submitted this report on the political status of the US missile defense deployment.]

Although the recent election in Poland promised to bring change in the style of Polish foreign policy, it was not a definitive referendum on the future of US missile defense components on Polish territory. The outgoing ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), lead by former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, supported the deployment of US interceptors in Poland wholeheartedly during its tenure and during the campaign. The victorious Civic Platform (PO), conversely, failed to clearly articulate a position on the missile defense shield, and seemed to hedge its position on what the US would concede to Poland for its participation in the program. Reports in the Polish press directly following the election suggested that certain concessions from the United States—the transfer of short and medium-missile defense systems, relaxed visa restriction, or economic investments—could induce the Civic Platform’s consent. More recent reports in the Polish press, however, suggest that the PO has tempered its enthusiasm for the project, and negotiations with the United States have been postponed pending discussions with Poland’s neighbors, including Russia. Nonetheless, given the dual-executive system codified in Poland’s constitution, President Lech Kaczynski (former PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s twin, biologically and ideologically, and a leader of PiS) will continue to wield substantial power in Polish foreign policy, so the effect of the PO’s potential change of heart remains dubious.