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Heading to ABM Shield

16.11.2007 11:23

А.Novik

Actual steps of the Czech Government towards provision of its territory for deployment of a US ABM radar are confirmed by a series of talks on this subject between the Czech and American officials in October-November. The talks are not easy, the comments on them are discrepant, but their final result is obvious - the US radar will be installed in Czechia.

For example, Czech President V. Claus claimed that the US radar will be finally installed in the Czech territory to become a component of the ABM shield in Central Europe. In his opinion, the point is in strengthening ties of Czechia with its American ally. At the same time, the Head of Czechia believes that the construction of the radar will take a long period of time that should be used to invite all NATO countries to take part in creation of the ABM shield in Europe.

During the Czech-American talks in Prague on October 30 - November 1 the parties discussed a draft bilateral agreement between the Czech Republic and USA that should stipulate a legal status of the American troops in the Czech territory, procedures of the use of arms and military equipment by them, as well as exchange of information.

It is known that US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Prague on October 23. During the visit, R. Gates claimed that he expects that Russia would join the US ABM Base Construction Project in Czechia and that Russia may station its representatives in the American base in Czechia on the permanent basis. However, this statement of R. Gates evoked sharp response of the Czech politicians.

For instance, Vice-Speaker of the House of Representatives L. Zaoralek noted that "arrival of the Russian militaries to the American base in Czechia will be considered as invasion of the Czech territory and assault against its sovereignty, that is absolutely unacceptable". Czech Prime Minister M. Topolanek also said that Prague is not going to agree with permanent presence of Russian militaries in the US radar base in their country. And he said it at the same time when the Czech Government allegedly examines a possibility to cooperate with Russia in provision of ABM defense. But as we see, such cooperation does not mean the invitation of the Russian military experts to the US base.

A regular round of the Czech-American talks on the ABM shield was held in Prague on November 5-6. This time, the parties discussed the following issues: the mission of US base in the Czech territory, the base control structure, the conditions of access to the base for Czech militaries. The parties agreed that the Czech troops will be responsible for external security of the American radar. Czech experts will have unlimited access to the radar. It was stated by the Deputy Foreign Minister of Czechia. The expenditures relating to the construction and operation of the radar will be borne by Washington. In turn, Prague will not claim for the rent.

After the talks it was stated the Czech leadership granted to the American party its principle clearance for installation of the US ABM radar in the Czech territory. However, Czechia would not like that its actions complicate its relations with Russia and European neighbors, first of all, with Germany, and provoke public strong feelings in its own country.

According to the last public surveys, about two thirds or 70 per cent of the Czech citizens are against deployment of the US ABM systems in their territory and demand to conduct a referendum. At the same time, the Czech Parliament did not support a proposal of the oppositional Social-Democratic Party to conduct a referendum on this problem. In this connection the oppositional left-wing parties blame the Government of M. Topolanek for disregard for the opinion and interests of the majority of Czechs. Therefore a final decision is pending.

Czechia is very much dependent on the support of Germany that, as known, holds the opinion that the problem of the European ABM shield as well as deployment of the US ABM systems in individual European countries should be solved within the framework of NATO and EU. In this context, Prague was visited by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier who held confidential talks on this subject with his colleague Karel Schwarzenberg.

In general the United States and Czechia radically advanced towards signing the agreement on installation of the US radar in the outskirts of Prague. The policy of the Czech leadership in this direction is well-defined. The remaining unsettled details including those of the internal nature are expected to be settled before December. Inter alia, it is expected to settle a matter relating to inspection of the US radar by foreign observers. This right is expected to be granted to those countries that in turn welcome NATO military inspections to their territories. It was stated by the Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Pojar.

The talks between the United States and Poland on deployment of US ABM systems in the Polish territory became lately less intensive than between the US and Czechia. It is associated with the mid-term parliamentary election and Government reshuffle in Poland. New Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk claimed that in principle he is not against the deployment of the US ABM systems in Poland but "the talks with America should be continued on the tougher terms and conditions". According to Polish Deputy Foreign Minister V. Vaschikovsky such talks will be resumed in early December.

It is expected that the agreement between the USA and Poland on this subject may be signed in March 2008. However, as quoted to D. Tusk, prior to the final decision the Polish party will have respective consultations with all European NATO allies that by the way has not been done by the former government of J. Kachinsky.

Meanwhile, the Administration of President G. Bush still fails to reach an agreement with the Democratic majority in the US Congress on provision of funds for the construction of US ABM bases in Czechia and Poland. In particular, the US House of Representatives cut the request of the White House for the construction of the ABM bases in Eastern Europe by 139 million Dollars mainly at the expense of the Polish component. In these circumstances the Republicans in the US Congress continue a campaign to support deployment of the US ABM systems in Europe. For example, according to the statement of Republican Congressman T. Franks "if Czechia and Poland make positive decisions on the construction of the ABM systems, the required funds will be provided regardless of the fact that the Lower Chamber of the Congress failed to provide full amount of funds for the project".