By Dana Kutchova
Secratary of State Condoleeza Rice is in Prague today to ink the U.S. Missile Shield Treaty, but the question remains, who invited her?
The U.S. National Missile Defense project is a complex, far-reaching system involving the production of new weapons and the installation of U.S. military bases around the world. In Europe, the first step is the installation of an advanced radar facility in the Czech Republic, as well as a base for interceptor missiles in neighboring Poland.
But Czechs want no part of it. Polls have consistently confirmed that 70 % of the Czech population are against building even “defensive” radar installations on their soil (the Polish numbers are not much different). And thus far all attempts to allow referenda have been blocked. This disregard for the will of the people could lead to a breakdown of the governement’s tenuous coalition.
Despite that, Czech and U.S. leaders are continuing their negotiations, which will reach their formal climax today when the Secratary of State signs the treaty. And while the American public may have accepted the idea of immediate threats and continuing danger, the situation in Eastern Europe is not so black and white. Korea and Iran, the supposed impetus for the Shield, are at best hypothetical threats to Europe. Clearly there must be other motives.
Deterring Russia is probably more what the Czech government has in mind – and that may grow more true in the future. Though ex-satellite states hardly have a warm spot in their hearts for Russia, few Czechs appreciate being used as launching ground for a Cold War revival. And with Russia's vast oil and gas supplies, it is not in the Czechs' interest, nor in the interest of any European nation for that matter, to become Moscow‘s enemy. Moreover, bi-lateral treaties between individual EU states and the U.S. divide Europe and stand in the way of a unified, all-European security policy.
Secretary Rice is probably aware that her administration is not carrying out a dialogue with the Czech people, but instead with a minority behind a razor’s-edge balance in the Parliament. With charges of corruption abounding, the democratic process has been undermined, erroding America’s already weak credibility as a champion of liberty. With such consequences, at a time when anti-American feelings are high, it begs the question: Whose interests does the National Missile Defense project really serve: Czech or American?
Given national opposition to foreign military bases, key voices of the Czech opposition party have already declared their intent to dismantle the treaty should they get the chance to form a new government. Remembering Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s remarks about the “fear-mongering of the Bush administration,” I wonder if the next administration may take a somewhat different approach. Rushing the signing prior to the U.S. elections in November cannot be considered a responsible move. Until then, Dr. Rice, don’t call us about radar – we’ll call you.
Dana Kuchtova is the 1st Vice-Chair of the Czech Green party and former Minister of Education. The Greens belong to the government coalition, but the party is split on the "radar" issue.
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