WARSAW - Poland's defense minister said yesterday that the latest US offer aimed at persuading his country to accept a missile defense base on its soil contained more costs than benefits for Warsaw.
But the minister, Bogdan Klich, said he still believed a deal could be reached by the end of July, and urged Washington to present an offer that would do more to protect Poland, a former Soviet satellite.
He said suggestions that the United States might turn to Lithuania as an alternative location were unrealistic.
The latest American proposal, which the government rejected yesterday, "does not strengthen our national security," Klich told reporters. "The costs - political, strategic and military - outweigh the benefits."
"We want the benefits to outweigh the costs," he added.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk has rejected the latest US offer aimed at placing 10 missile interceptors in Poland as "unsatisfactory" and said Poland wants US assurances of short- and medium-range antimissile systems, including a Patriot missile battery, to shore up its own defenses.
US officials say the planned defensive umbrella over Eastern Europe would help protect the United States and Europe from potential Iranian attack. But Poland's government is concerned about possible threats from Russia, which is vehemently opposed to seeing the US installations so close to its borders.
The United States and the Czech Republic on Tuesday signed the initial agreement to place a radar-tracking base near Prague, another part of the system.
Russia promptly threatened a military response against the base, raising concerns in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Defense Ministry said it told Lieutenant General Yevgeny Buzhinsky, a top Russian general and Defense Ministry official visiting the republic on Thursday, that it was concerned by Moscow's "inappropriate rhetoric" regarding the proposed base.