"This is an agreement that will establish a missile
defense site here in Poland that will help us to deal with the new threats of
the 21st century, of long range missiles...from countries like Iran or North
Korea," Rice told reporters in Warsaw.
Rice emphasized that the missile system was "defensive
and aimed at no one."
The agreement to install 10 U.S. interceptor missiles 115
miles from western Russia has strained already troubled relations between Moscow
and the West, ties weakened by Russia's invasion of its former Soviet neighbor Georgia
earlier this month.
"We have achieved our main goals, which means that our
country and the United States will be more secure," Polish Prime Minister
Donald Tusk said.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski also expressed "great
satisfaction" at the outcome.
After the agreement on the deal was announced last week, top
Russian Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn warned that Poland is risking attack, and
possibly a nuclear one, by deploying the American missile defense system,
Russia's Interfax news agency reported, according to the Associated Press.
"It is a cause for regret that at a time when we are
already in a difficult situation, the American side further exacerbates the
situation in relations between the United States and Russia," Nogovitsyn
Poland "could not go unpunished," Nogovitsyn
Poles have been shaken by the threats, but NATO Secretary
General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer dismissed them Tuesday as "pathetic
"It is unhelpful and it leads nowhere," de Hoop Scheffer
told reporters at a NATO meeting in Brussels.
Poland and the United States spent 18 months negotiating,
and talks recently snagged on Poland's demands for the U.S.'s Patriot missiles
in exchange for hosting the missile defense base. Washington agreed to the
demand last week.
"The presence of the Patriot battery, which will defend
our territory and the U.S. installation, is a practical dimension of this
watershed agreement," Tusk said.
The site in Poland hosting 10 interceptor rockets and a
giant radar in neighboring Czech Republic will form the European part of a
"This is a very special day," Rice said. "For
Poland and the United States this is just one more example of the deepening of
our relations over the last 20 years."
The U.S. already has reached an agreement with the
government in Prague to place the second component of the missile defense
shield, a radar tracking system, in the Czech Republic, Poland's southwestern
neighbor and another formerly communist country.
The United States has spent more than $100 billion in the
last two decades on its project to develop defenses against ballistic missiles,
according to the BBC. But the Pentagon still has not proved the system can work
in realistic conditions.
Washington wants the sites to be in operation by about 2012.