Jeffrey LewisRedzikowo Interceptor Site

In February 2007, Gazeta Wyborcza reported that four sites were under consideration for the US interceptor site in Poland: Zegrze Pomorskie, Debrzno, and Slupsk-Redzikowo.

Since then, Redzikowo — a now defunct Polish airbase — has been looking like the place. At least that is what the Polish press claims. Oh, and MDA released this slide, which puts a notional interceptor site, oh, right about where Redzikowo is located. Click on the image for a GoogleEarth (.kmz) file, though there isn’t much to see.

Now, Allen Thomson sends along a note pointing to this article about Polish Defense Minister Aleksander Szczyglo meeting Slupsk governor Slawomir Ziemianowicz on Thursday to discuss the possibility of his region hosting a U.S. missile defense site.

So, we’ve got our candidate. Now, how do the locals feel about it?

The press coverage of local reaction to the missile shield is spectacular. The US press goes with a simplistic “The Czechs don’t want missile defense, but the Poles do …” Judy Dempsey in the International Herald Tribune reports that “public opinion, at least in the areas considered as possible sites for the 10 interceptors, is strongly behind the United States. For the locals, it is about jobs, not the environment.”

Reuters’ Barbara Sladkowska does better, but the prize goes to PAP, the Polish news agency.

PAP has a balanced story about local reaction (full text in the comments) with some, uh, local color:

Redzikowo (Pomorskie), lying only four kilometres from the centre of Slupsk, was brought into the centre of attention by Zycie Warszawy, which reported just before US Assistant Secretary of State John Rood’s visit to Poland that the Americans want to build their anti-missile installations precisely here. That report was repeated by other media sources, and journalists began to arrive in Redzikowo. Some residents are already fed up. Beer-sipping youths curtly told one television crew to “get the f… out of our neighbourhood.”

Oi.

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  1. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    BBC Monitoring Europe – Political
    Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring

    May 30, 2007 Wednesday

    Polish communities ponder possible selection as US missile defense site

    LENGTH: 1383 words

    Text of report by the Polish news agency PAP

    28 May, Koszalin. “The Americans? Let them come. I am not afraid of any shield,” says an elderly clerk at a grocery store in Redzikowo, outside of Slupsk. Those at the store next door joke that if the Americans do install their “antimissiles” here, Redzikowo will become the safest place in Poland.

    However, not everyone likes the idea of the shield. “That means unnecessarily making our settlement a target. There are places away from people, so let the Americans build their shield there,” its opponents argue.

    How many people are in favour of the shield, and how many against, is hard to say. That is not even known by Andrzej Kotlicki, chairman of the Redzikowo Settlement Council, who for the time being does not want to discuss his own opinions about the shield. “We are set to talk about things at a meeting; I have invited the wojt [borough chief] to come. Then we will learn something more and agree on something; you should come back after that,” he proposes to PAP.

    Redzikowo (Pomorskie), lying only four kilometres from the centre of Slupsk, was brought into the centre of attention by Zycie Warszawy, which reported just before US Assistant Secretary of State John Rood’s visit to Poland that the Americans want to build their anti-missile installations precisely here. That report was repeated by other media sources, and journalists began to arrive in Redzikowo. Some residents are already fed up. Beer-sipping youths curtly told one television crew to “get the f… out of our neighbourhood.”

    The crew left, although their report was broadcast since the beer-drinkers intervened after the shooting had taken place.

    Redzikowo is marked as a small town on the map, but it is in fact a post-military settlement for 1,200 individuals. It is well taken care of – the housing cooperative keeps the apartment blocks painted, and there are several stores, a post office, a hairdresser, library, school, and sporting field – albeit sleepy.

    “The military was here and there was life. The military did kind of make fools of us, because they wrote that they painted the apartment blocks twice a year, yet in fact they only painted them on paper, but at least something was happening, things were cheerful. Planes were flying. Pilots would sit in the pub until five o’clock in the morning. Once they left town, the pub went out of business. People began to move away. Most of those who are left work in Slupsk as it is,” a former barmaid, now working for a lottery outlet in Slupsk, recalls.

    “If they build the shield, the military will come back, and perhaps some sort of movement will start. But I would prefer for our military to come back, not the Americans,” adds another woman who misses the planes. “It was easy to fall asleep with such noise, not like now, when the silence rings in your ears.”

    But our military does not have to return to Redzikowo, since it has been present there the whole time. A short distance away from the settlement there starts the territory of JW 4961, meaning the 23rd Radar Battalion. Beyond that is a massive airport at which the 28th Fighter Plane Regiment, outfitted with MiG-23s with adjustable wing geometry, was stationed until 1999.

    But today there is but a shadow of the former military presence: 100 professional soldiers plus a hundred-odd civilians. There used to be 650 aviation personnel, employing twice as many civilians as now.

    The Americans could come in greater numbers than that. Some sources are saying that together with their families they could account for 1,000-1,200 individuals. That is why the wojt of the gmina [borough] of Slupsk, Mariusz Chmiel, is opposed to the issue. “Such an investment could revive the region economically,” Chmiel believes.

    But Chmiel’s official knowledge about the US plans is limited to the fact that last year a company they hired drilled some holes tens of meters deep, testing the groundwater. “I don’t know about the results of the tests. I don’t particularly believe in any missiles, because Slupsk is too close,” Chmiel says.

    He feels that the most likely scenario is as follows: a military airport and support facilities placed at Redzikowo, and missile launchers placed at the Wicko Morskie – Ustka military range, lying on the border of the Pomorskie and Zachodniopomorskie Voivodships.

    Chmiel sees US installations being more likely in view of the fact that three huge shopping centres are being built in Slupsk with its population of 100,000 residents, which in his view these residents cannot not “keep in business” on their own. One of the sites is being developed by US company.

    “Perhaps the investors know something we do not,” Chmiel ponders. Perhaps, but the topic of the missile defence shield has not yet been mentioned at any of the news conferences about the shopping centres.

    Slupsk’s longstanding mayor, Maciej Kobylinski, hints when talking to PAP that he might know something more about the US plans, but is not really able to discuss it. “The shield will mean soldiers, soldiers will mean money, and money means investments. I do not see any dangers related to the shield,” Kobylinski believes.

    People affiliated with the military speak in a completely different vein. One former fighter plane pilot from Redzikowo, Reserve Captain Bronislaw Nowak, nowadays deputy president of the Pomorze Association of Polish Pilots, does not believe nearly at all in the possibility of a missile defence shield being constructed at the site of his own former unit – albeit with the caveat that he would not “bet his life, since various strange things do sometimes happen.”

    According to Nowak, Redzikowo is undoubtedly one of the most strategically located airports in Poland. “But placing a missile defence shield, a special-purpose facility, next to a large town would be illogical. It would also be illogical to close down the military range in Wicko Morskie, plus the surrounding areas attractive to tourists, for the purposes of the shield,” he argues.

    Grzegorz Holdanowicz, editor-in-chief of the monthly Raport, agrees with Nowak. “Some sort of decision about a location for the shield has likely already been made, because otherwise negotiations would not have been started. I cannot rule out the possibility that Redzikowo and Wicko Morskie are that site. In my view that is a bad location, and so I do not rule out the possibility that this is a smokescreen,” Holdanowicz believes.

    Holdanowicz believes the best location for the shield to be the airport near Debzno (the ground was also tested there – PAP). The Raport editor likewise does not rule out Zegrze Pomorskie (where holes were likewise drilled – PAP). Redzikowo ranks third in his view. “Unless geology says something different,” Holdanowicz concedes.

    For journalists, the Debrzno airfield, administratively located in the gmina of Lipka, in the Zlotow powiat, in the Wielkopolskie Voivodship, became a “shoo-in” location to host the US installation back in March. Rzeczpospolita saw it as the site, and the report was repeated by Newsweek. Now few people remember that location.

    People have also forgotten about Zegrze Pomorskie, located near Koszalin. The mayor of Koszalin believes that to be unfounded. “To my knowledge, the Americans are still considering building the shield here,” says Miroslaw Mikietynski, who has for several years wanted Zegrze Pomorskie to be a civilian airport.

    Despite the media reports that the Americans have chosen Redzikowo, Zegrze Pomorskie’s 700 residents have also not forgotten about the shield.

    “The topic of the shield is still circulating. People are a bit worried, because they have heard that there will be a security zone around the shield, and if Zegrze Pomorskie falls inside it we will be resettled,” local leader Waldemar Potoniec says.

    If there is no resettlement, people still do not want to live next to the shield, since as they say: “It is not pleasant to be first in the sights of foreign missiles.”

    Zegrze Pomorskie is also not expecting big investments from the Americans. “A civilian airport means something completely different. That would not bother us, because a number of people once earned a living from the airport, and so perhaps they could return to their old jobs,” Potoniec conjectures.

    Source: PAP news agency, Warsaw, in Polish 28 May 07

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