The deal to install a silo of 10 interceptor missiles on Poland’s Baltic coast has infuriated Moscow, which has already threatened to respond, potentially with nuclear weapons.
But at a ceremony in Warsaw, the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski concluded the deal, which will also see American aid to strengthen Poland’s army.
“This is a system that is defensive and is not aimed at anyone,” said Miss Rice. “This is an agreement that will establish a missile defence site that will help us to deal with the new threats of the 21st century of a long-range missile threats from countries like Iran or from North Korea.”
Despite those assurances, Russia has long argued that the shield is aimed at undermining its own strategic deterrent.
President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia has dismissed American talk of a missile shield against so-called rogue states as a “fairy tale” and insisted Russia was the real target.
“We will be forced to respond to this adequately. The EU and US have been warned,” he said last month.
Last week the Russian general Anatoly Nogovitsyn said that Poland “is exposing itself to a strike – 100 per cent,” by installing the shield, and warned that such a strike could be with nuclear weapons.