By Associated Press Writer
updated 3/9/2009 12:26:21 AM ET 2009-03-09T04:26:21

Poland's president said Sunday he believes the U.S. will honor its agreement to build a missile defense base in his country, adding that scrapping the project to improve ties with Russia would be an unfriendly gesture toward Poland.

"A deal was signed and I think that regardless of which administration is in power in the United States agreements are going to be implemented," President Lech Kaczynski said on TVN24 television.

President Barack Obama acknowledged Tuesday that he sent a letter to Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev that said curtailing Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons would lessen the need for a U.S. missile defense system in Eastern Europe — a project Moscow sharply opposes.

The letter was widely interpreted as a signal that the Obama administration might be willing to give up missile defense as part of a security deal with Russia.

The former administration of George W. Bush signed a deal with Poland last summer to place 10 missile defense interceptors at a base in the northern part of the country. The system — which aims to counter potential future threats from Iran — would also include a radar base in the neighboring Czech Republic.

Full-scale review
Moscow has vehemently opposed the prospect of U.S. military installations being built so close to its borders. In response, the Kremlin has threatened to station Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad exclave, which borders Poland.

Since taking office in January, Obama has said he wants to "reset or reboot" relations with Russia, and has announced a full-scale review to decide the fate of missile defense.

Kaczynski has long been a staunch supporter of hosting elements of a global U.S. missile defense system. He sees hosting the base as a way to further boost Poland's alliance with the U.S.

"Missile defense is extremely important for Poland," Kaczynski said. "Not from the point of view of our security from so-called rogue states, but for other political reasons it is very, very important."

Poland agreed to host the missile defense base in the hope that closer military ties with the U.S. would bolster its security in the face of a resurgent Russia. Warsaw's anxieties deepened last summer when Russia fought a brief war with Georgia. Poland and the United States signed the missile defense agreement shortly after that conflict erupted in August.

Kaczynski said the possibility that the plan could be abandoned to improve relations between Russian and the U.S. "raises the question of whether the victim of such an agreement should be a very loyal ally like Poland." He added that if the U.S. were to scrap the project it would "not be a friendly gesture" toward Poland.

Warsaw has been a staunch supporter of the U.S. It sent combat troops to the U.S.-led war in Iraq in 2003 and currently has some 1,600 soldiers in Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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