The Bush administration wants to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a targeting radar in the Czech Republic as part of a defense system that has already been deployed in the United States, Britain, and Greenland.
Polish Defense Minister Aleksander Szczyglo said on April 24 his country is willing to consider allowing the United States to place missiles on its territory if it enhances the security of Poland and Europe.
Szczyglo made the remarks after holding talks with Gates in Warsaw.
The Bush administration believes that the missile-defense shield is crucial to defending both the United States and Europe against attacks from Iran and other potentially hostile countries in the Middle East.
Meeting In Moscow
Gates arrived in the Polish capital from Moscow, where the idea has received negative reception.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking on April 24 in Luxembourg, said the plan could destabilize Europe.
But on April 23 Gates said he was "cautiously optimistic" after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The Pentagon chief even held out the possibility of eventually locating part of the shield in Russia.
Gates also said he does not think Russia is a military threat to Poland -- with or without the U.S. defense shield on its soil.
"I said in Russia we aren't talking about tomorrow or next year, but what the world will look like in 10 or 20 years," he told journalists outside the Polish Defense Ministry. "The world changes in dramatic ways and what we are talking about here is indivisible security for the United States and our NATO allies."
Gates has invited Russian officials to inspect a U.S. interceptor-missile site in Fort Greely, Alaska, and a radar in California.
Bush is set to meet his Polish and Czech counterparts in Warsaw and Prague in June 8 to discuss the system.
Last year NATO conducted an internal feasibility study that reportedly backed the idea of creating a missile shield for the European allies.