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Poland, Eyeing Russia, Seeks NATO Security Revamp

The Russia-Georgia war has forced NATO members to rethink security priorities
WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland wants NATO to revamp its security planning in the face of a more assertive Russia after Moscow's brief war with Georgia last summer and its spat last month with Ukraine over gas supplies, officials say.

At issue is the alliance's contingency planning, the defense strategies crafted for each NATO member which were last updated, partially, in the 1990s.

Polish officials stop short of saying Russia should be named explicitly as a threat to the 26-nation alliance, but Moscow's actions against ex-Soviet republics Georgia and Ukraine have increased Warsaw's security concerns.

"We are interested in updating the contingency planning to adjust it to current reality in terms of possible threats and appropriate answers to them," Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Kremer told Reuters on February 2.

Kremer said this should not be seen as a move against Russia, noting that other threats such as terrorist attacks were also not included in current contingency planning.

"The contingency plans don't have any well-defined threat for now. In particular, Russia's new aggressive attitude is not defined," said Witold Waszczykowski, deputy head of Poland's National Security Bureau.

Poland will host NATO defense ministers in the southern city of Krakow on February 19-20. They are expected to focus on reform of the alliance and its mission in Afghanistan.

Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich said last week that updating contingency planning would be high on Warsaw's agenda.

Moscow and Tbilisi fought a brief war in August over Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region. Top-level ties between Russia and NATO were frozen but officials have said they could be resumed this month.

Roman Kuzniar, a Polish military expert, said: "Contingency plans should reflect the growth in the danger from Russia.... Moscow's attitude to the region has changed and even if it is not a direct military threat to Poland's security now, contingency plans should be updated regularly anyway."

Warsaw also favors mentioning in any updated document U.S. plans to deploy parts of a global missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, Kremer said, a project endorsed by NATO.

Moscow opposes the shield plan, although a Russian news agency reported last week that the Kremlin would halt a retaliatory move to install missiles in its Kaliningrad enclave next to Poland in an apparent goodwill gesture to the new U.S. administration of President Barack Obama.

The missile shield was a flagship defense policy under former U.S. President George W. Bush. Obama's nominee for the top policy job in the Pentagon, Michele Flournoy, has said the project would be reviewed.

Senator Carl Levin, who chairs the U.S. Senate's armed services committee, said last month he believed Obama's administration was serious about exploring cooperation with Russia on missile defense.

NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero said: "NATO has a sophisticated and flexible defense planning capability that plans for any contingency. We don't go into details, but we have a very robust defense planning system and there should be no doubt that NATO can carry out all its core tasks in an efficient way."