"Missile Defence Placement in Lithuania Most Credible to USA," – President of Geneva University Strategic Studies Group

Azerbaijan, Baku, 19 June / Trend corr E. Tariverdiyeva/ Lithuania, being a NATO member and having its own interests in placement of US missile defence in its territory, may substitute Poland for Washington, as placement of missile defence in Lithuania will cost far cheaper.

"The fact that the USA has had many problems in its negotiations for placing 10 missiles interceptors on Polish soils makes the Lithuanian option credible and likely," Jean-Marc Rickli, President of the Geneva University Strategic Studies Group, said.

On 17 June, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski stated that USA was negotiating with Lithuania to place missile defence in the country in case of negotiations with Warsaw, which requires assistance from USA to upgrade its Army, fail. On the same day, US State Department stated that an agreement with Poland on placement of interceptors would be signed in future and negotiations on alternative areas were not being held.

On 18 June, Lithuanian Foreign Minister denied the reports that negotiations are being held with USA. On the same day, Waszczykowski confirmed that Poland is aware of the negotiations being held between USA and Lithuania, which may become a 'method of impact' of USA to Poland.

Rickli said the Lithuanians have a direct security interests in hosting the US interceptors for two reasons.

"Firstly, officials from the Lithuanian defence ministry have concurred with the USA about the threat of missile attacks from a third country. Though not officially mentioned, Russia still represents the major threat for the Baltic States as the cyber attack against Estonia in May 2007 demonstrated," Rickli said to Trend via e-mail on 19 June.

In May, 2007, websites of Estonian newspapers, main banks and governmental establishments underwent mass spam bombing and became victims of hackers. According to Estonians, there is no doubt that the attack was initiated by Russia.

"Secondly, hosting American troops would enhance the security of Lithuania since it would raise US interests in the stability and the security of the country," he said.

According to the political scientist, from the American perspective recent declarations by Pentagon officials about the Lithuanian option should also be regarded as a bargaining chip in their negotiation with Poland. The USA want to show that they have fallback options in case the Poles would raise the stakes too high.

"Current demands to modernise the Polish military and beef up its air defences with a system similar to the Patriot missiles appear far too expensive to the USA. The disclosure of negotiation with Lithuania is probably aimed at forcing Poland to scale down its demands," he said.

Expert said geographically the two countries are neighbours and therefore the location issue does not affect the effectiveness of the planned US missile defence.

"Both Poland and Lithuania are members of NATO and since NATO agreed on US missile defence in its Bucharest summit but did not show an interest for a specific establishment in Poland, Lithuania appears as a credible option. The exclusive bilateral character of the missile defence deal has vanished with the Bucharest summit. Furthermore the Poles feel that their former supports to the Bush government (e.g. Sending troops in Iraq and Afghanistan) were not rewarded accordingly," Rickli said.

"The most recent setback concerns Washington's lukewarm reception of Poland's strategic energy plans that intend to build gas and oil pipelines from Central Asia to Central Europe with the help of US companies," expert said.

According to Rickli, both Poland's engagement in Iraq and the hosting of interceptor missiles had been based on bilateral strategic relations, which were aimed at increasing American support.

"These assumptions proved wrong and actually made diplomatic negotiations within the EU more difficult for Warsaw," expert added.

US missile defence is intended to protection the country from missile attack first of all from so-called outcast countries to which USA refers DPRK, Iran and Syria (previously Iraq and Libya).

"Thus, by moving the location of their missile defence in Lithuania, the USA will be able to rely on a more devoted ally," Rickli said.

The correspondent can be contacted at [email protected]

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