U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed hope Saturday that Russia would drop its opposition to a U.S. missile defense system in Europe and accept an offer to cooperate in developing technologies for shooting down hostile weapons.
"The offer stands," Clinton said at a news conference after witnessing the signing of an amendment to a U.S.-Polish agreement on the basing of U.S. missile interceptors in Poland.
Repeating a theme the Russians consistently have rejected, Clinton said Moscow has nothing to fear from a NATO-endorsed missile defense system based in Europe because it will be aimed at Iran's missile arsenal.
"This is a purely defensive system," she told reporters, with her Polish counterpart, Radek Sikorski, at her side. "It does not threaten Russia." Moscow views the project as a potential threat to its own missile arsenal.
Sikorski said his country fully supports the project, which the Obama administration radically altered last year in a move that some critics interpreted as a conciliatory gesture to Russia and a slap at Poland.
The Bush administration had planned to install 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic. President Barack Obama decided to reconfigure the system to account for what he said were changes in the nature of the Iranian missile threat. Obama's system eventually would include land-based SM-3 anti-missile interceptors in Poland; the early elements are largely sea-based.
The amendment signed Saturday was a technical adjustment to reflect Obama's changes.
Upon her arrival from Ukraine, Clinton laid a wreath and paid her respects at the Katyn Cross, a memorial to the nearly 100 Poles killed in an April plane crash in Russia en route to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Soviet massacre of Polish POWs in Katyn forest. Among those killed in the plane crash was Poland's president, Lech Kaczynski.
Clinton also toured the World War II-era Schindler Factory Museum, which captures in stark images and artifacts the suffering of Jews at the hands of Nazi Germany. Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist, is credited with saving the lives of hundreds of Jews by bringing them to his factory in Krakow from the nearby Plaszow concentration camp.
Clinton spoke in somber tones of the haunting symbols inside the museum.
"We see here the two realities of the Holocaust," she said — the privation and slaughter of Jews, as well as the heroic efforts by some to save them from Plaszow.
She said the Obama administration would seek congressional approval of a $15 million donation, over five years, to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation to help finance an endowment to preserve and safeguard the remains of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. An estimated 1.1 million victims perished at the camp.
Clinton was to speak later Saturday at an international conference on the promotion of democracy.
Clinton's itinerary: http://tinyurl.com/39ozdur
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.