Polish Prime Minister, Peeved Over Missile Shield Reversal, Rejects Call from Clinton

The United States and Poland remain close allies despite President Obama's decision to drop plans for a missile defense shield in the Eastern European country, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk insisted Thursday.

But Tusk may have felt differently Wednesday night, when he got a phone call to tell him about Obama's decision, which would be announced the following day.

Tusk told Polish radio that he did not want to speak with Obama on Wednesday night because he wanted to "properly prepare for the discussion."

But Politico.com reported Friday that it wasn't Obama on the line -- that Tusk actually rejected a call from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- who called him to detail the plan -- because as a head of government, he thought he should hear from Obama directly.

"Hillary called -- and the reason he turned it down was because of protocol," one of two U.S.-based sources close to the Polish government told Politico.

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Tusk finally spoke with the Obama on Thursday, after Obama announced that the land-based missile defense system announced by the Bush administration for deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic would be scrapped in favor of a ship-based system.

The Polish government took several hits for its decision to house a missile defense shield, and its neighbor, Russia, took it as an even greater affront, part of the reason that the president may have reached his conclusion.

Tusk did not sound pleased with Obama's announcement, telling Polish radio on Thursday, "It was an autonomous decision taken by President Barack Obama" that did not involve the Polish government.

Obama said Thursday the new system would be quicker, cheaper and more effective against the threat from Iranian missiles.

He added that the threat assessment on Iran had changed, and that the Islamic Republic was developing missiles that could reach Europe or Israel, but not the intercontinental rockets that could hit the United States. Hence the shift to a more transportable, ship-based shield.

With the missile shield out of Eastern Europe, Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said Thursday that Obama's call for other systems, such as the sea-based Aegis Weapons System, the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor and advanced sensors, creates an opportunity for a ground-based missile defense at Fort Greely, Alaska. That system, Begich said, could protect the homeland from long-range rockets coming from North Korea or Iran.

"Assuming the president's decision to cancel missile system deployment in Europe is final, Alaska's GMD system must be fully deployed and properly maintained to protect America from attacks by rogue states," Begich said. "I look forward to receiving a full explanation from the Obama administration on this decision and how it proposes to maintain Alaska's defense system."

He noted that he succeeded in adding an amendment to the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act "ensuring the completion of Fort Greely's Missile Field #2 in a seven missile-silo configuration."

All may not be lost with Poland, either, as a result of the decision to abandon the land-based shield.

Tusk said Obama's proposal is not a "defeat" for Poland, and the alternative strategy should not affect the security of Poland or of Europe.

He added that Obama signaled to him in their call on Thursday that "Poland has a chance to win an exclusive position" in the new system. That could be through an American commitment of U.S. Patriot missiles being placed in Poland, Politico reported..

Click here to read the Politico report.

Click here to read more about Polish and Czech reaction to the scrapped missile defense plan.