U.S. deal with Poland riles Russia

Poland and the U.S. struck a deal Thursday that will strengthen military ties and put an American missile interceptor base in Poland, a plan that has infuriated Moscow and sparked fears in Europe of a new arms race.

“We have crossed the Rubicon,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said, referring to U.S. consent to Poland's demands after more than 18 months of negotiations.

Washington says the planned system is needed to protect the U.S. and Europe from possible attacks by missile-armed “rogue states” like Iran. The Kremlin, however, feels it is aimed at Russia's missile force and warns it will worsen tensions.

U.S. officials said the timing of the deal was not meant to antagonize Russian leaders, as relations already are strained over recent fighting between Russia and Georgia over the South Ossetia region.

In an interview on news channel TVN24, Tusk said the U.S. agreed to help augment Poland's defenses with Patriot missiles in exchange for placing 10 missile defense interceptors in the eastern European country. He said the deal also includes a “mutual commitment” between the two nations to assist each other “in case of trouble.”

That clause appeared to be a direct reference to Russia, which has threatened to aim its nuclear-armed missiles at Poland – a former Soviet satellite – if it hosts the U.S. site.

Poland has all along been guided by fears of a newly resurgent Russia, an anxiety that has intensified with Russia's offensive in Georgia, a former Soviet republic.