US offers Russia "physical presence" in Central Europe missile bases

The United States says it will allow Russia to monitor the missile defence bases it's planning for Central Europe. Moscow and Washington are engaged in a deep diplomatc row over the bases which will see missile insterceptors deployed in Poland and radar bases built in the Czech Republic. Russia has even threatened to aim its missile at the Central European bases if they go ahead. Talks underway in Washington may have found a way to take the heat out of the dispute by allowing Russian monitors inside the bases.

Kerry Skyring spoke to Natalia Leshchenko, Russia analyst at Global Insight, an intelligence consultancy, and asked her - is the Pentagon making big concessions to Russia?

“Well a big concession would be if the Pentagon decided not to deploy the military bases there in the first place and this is exactly what Russia is arguing for. The physical presence is a gesture, probably quite a serious gesture of good will, but not something that would seriously affect the Washington plans for Central Europe”.

If Russian monitors are actually going to be inside the bases wouldn’t that be a problem for the host countries, especially Poland?

“Well the new Polish Prime Minister is trying to tread a really careful line between reconciling the interests of both Russia and the US and trying to gain as many advantages for his own country and his own government as possible. He hasn’t so far aligned very clearly with the United States on the issue so technically it shouldn’t be a big political problem having Russian observers on the bases. I think that Tusk (Polish PM) will find a way of explaining this to the electorate”.

But after all the threats from Russia, including the threat to aim missiles at Central Europe if this goes ahead – does it look like Russia will in the end accept the bases?

“It looks like they might simply have to, or need to, given the strength of the US effort to deploy them there. But for the moment and for the next couple of years probably it’s just a question of diplomatic wrangling between the two countries. However it looks more likely that the missile bases will be there where Washington wants to place them.”