General Warns Poland Faces a Strike

APUkrainians protesting Russia's military actions in Georgia with an image of Medvedev at a march in Kiev on Saturday.
Russia warned Poland on Friday that it is exposing itself to attack -- even a nuclear one -- by accepting a U.S. missile interceptor base on its soil, in Moscow's strongest language yet against the plan.

U.S. and Polish officials stuck firmly by their deal, signed Thursday, for Poland to host a system the United States says is aimed at blocking attacks by rogue nations such as Iran.

Moscow is convinced that the base is aimed at Russia's missile force. The deal comes as relations are already strained over the recent fighting between Russia and U.S.-backed Georgia over the separatist Georgian region of South Ossetia.

"Poland, by deploying [the system] is exposing itself to a strike -- 100 percent," said General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of the General Staff, Interfax reported.

He added, in a 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." Nogovitsyn said that would include elements of strategic deterrence systems, he said, the news agency reported.

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

Speaking at news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, 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."

U.S. officials defended the missile-defense deal and have said the timing was not meant to antagonize Russian leaders amid the fighting in Georgia.

"Poland is an independent country. And it's an ally of the United States. And it's a democratic country, to whose security the United States is committed" through NATO, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during a visit to Georgia's capital, Tbilisi.

"Russia should welcome having democracies on its border, not threaten them," she added.

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said Friday that Poland is willing to let Russia inspect the future missile base to give Moscow "tangible proof" that it is not directed against Russia, the Polish news agency PAP reported.

The missile deal, struck Thursday after more than 18 months of talks, must still be approved by Poland's parliament and signed by Rice during a future visit to Warsaw, possibly next week.

The U.S. also plans to set up a linked radar installation in the Czech Republic.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the United States agreed to help augment Poland's defenses with Patriot missiles in exchange for placing 10 missile-defense interceptors in the East 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. "Simply the existence of this installation increases Poland's security," Polish President Lech Kaczynski said Friday.