A massive petition campaign demanding a referendum on the question of the stationing of a US ABM radar site near Prague is underway in the Czech Republic. The government ignored public opinion and signed an agreement with the American administration to allow the construction of a radar site 50 kilometres from Prague. But, the signing of the agreement has not put an end to the argument about an American military presence in the Czech Republic. (65 percent of Czechs oppose the radar per AP. Bush embraces democracy? I think not…: editor’s note)
The government of Miroslav Topolanek believes it is to its credit that the US chose Prague as one of the sites of the American global ABM defence system. They scorned the opinion of their NATO allies that a decision on such a highly sensitive issue should have been taken at a European level. But, the ruling coalition in Prague countered this by saying that their ties with America were more important, and that, sooner or later, European states will be sucked into an American ABM system in any case.
Russia’s concerns that a US defence system poses a threat to global stability and to its national security were seen as a manifestation of imperialism. The Czech Republic shall get an ABM shield to protect it against notional missile attacks from Iran and North Korea, as well as against a hypothetical Russian attack. But, independent experts, including those inside the Czech Republic, have poured scorn on this argument, saying the belief that the American ABM defence system will protect the whole of Europe against a likely attack is misguided.
Jan Dolezal, a security expert, said, “We were assured that the radar will protect Europe against ballistic missiles from Iran and North Korea. I would say, concerning North Korea, the argument does not even deserve discussion. As for Iran, we should remember that America encouraged Saddam Hussein to make war on Tehran, turning Iran into an adversary, perhaps, unwittingly. As a result, there is no love lost between America and Iran. America has done nothing to make amends for that blunder, and it is still not ready to cooperate with Tehran. To a large extent, the building of the ABM radar site is a continuation of such US hostility towards Iran”.
The Czech Republic government does not have a majority in parliament, so, the ABM defence system agreement remains to be ratified. Hence, discussion could last until autumn, and stretch into the time of the American presidential election.
15 July 2008
Voice of Russia World Service