The United States' plan to extend its missile defence system to Central Europe has not only angered its old Cold War adversary Russia, it's also prompted a lively debate in the countries that would be on the sharp end of it. If all goes to plan, Poland would host an interceptor base - meant to shoot down incoming missiles from countries such as Iran - while the Czech Republic would host a radar station - meant to track those missiles as soon as they break cloud cover. The Czech government has said a cautious "yes" to the facility, which would be
There has been a great deal of talk in the last couple of months about US plans to build part of its anti-missile defence shield - a radar - here in the Czech Republic. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek welcomes the idea, though the Czech government has yet to reach a decision on the issue. In the meantime, there have been a number of demonstrations against the radar base. Now, however, a new civic group has emerged with the title "we don't want radars, we want rockets". Is this some practical joke, or are they serious? That's a question I put to spokesman
The outcome of a poll conducted by the STEM agency indicates that the majority of Czechs are opposed to hosting a US radar base on Czech territory. Seventy percent of respondents said they did not want the US radar base in the Czech Republic, thirty percent said they would agree to it. The poll shows that public interest in the matter is exceptionally high.
Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Vondra said in a televised debate on Sunday that the Czech Republic would give a positive reply to the US request to build a radar base on Czech territory. "We will open the way for further talks on the matter - I cannot imagine the government taking a different course of action," Mr. Vondra told viewers. He stressed however that this was merely another step in negotiations and did not legally commit the Czech Republic to hosting the US radar base. That decision would be made by Parliament sometime next year.
The Chairman of Parliament's Committee for European Affairs Ondrej Liska has said he would like to hear a clear stand from the country's EU allies regarding the US missile defense shield. Mr. Liska is a member of the Green Party which has voiced objections to the project on the grounds that it would not address the security needs of the Czech Republic's European allies.
The US missile defense shield which Washington would like to deploy jointly in the Czech Republic and Poland has become a matter of intensive debate and consultations. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek is to discuss the US missile defense project with NATO and EU officials in Brussels on Monday and the issue also tops the agenda of President Klaus' three week visit to the United States. President Klaus, who leaves for the US on Sunday, is to hold talks with US Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The head of the U.S. Missile Defence Agency was in Brussels this week to argue the case for placing part of its missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. Lieutenant General Henry Obering said the U.S. would press ahead with the plan, with or without the approval of America's NATO allies. The Czech government has said yes in theory to hosting a radar station about 70 km from Prague, and the two sides are about to embark on detailed talks on what is becoming a highly divisive issue. We spoke to U.S. ambassador Richard Graber.
On Monday, when Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek met with Polish counterpart Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw as part of a two-day official visit, it was no surprise that a proposed US missile defence system in Europe topped the leaders' discussion list. The US has asked the Czech Republic and Poland to respectively host radar and rocket bases on their territory as part of an anti-missile shield designed to prevent potential missile attacks by Iran or North Korea. On Monday, both Mr Topolanek and Mr Kaczynski made it clear that they were in favour of
The Czech Republic and Poland will probably give their consent to the
construction of a new US missile defence system on their territory, Czech
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and his Polish counterpart Jaroslaw
Kaczynski have announced. Both prime ministers said after a meeting in
Warsaw that they would probably react positively to a US request to build
a rocket base in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic. They
also said that they did not expect a referendum on the issue to be held in
Meanwhile, the commander of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces, Nikolay Solovtsov, has told journalists that if the Polish and Czech bases are built, the Russian army would aim some of its missiles at the facilities.
Czech officials have said that Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek will discuss plans for a US anti-missile defence system with bases in the Czech Republic and Poland when he meets with his Polish counterpart, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, during an official visit next week. Last month the US officially asked the Czech Republic to host a radar base on its soil and for interceptor missiles to be deployed in Poland as part of an expanded anti-missile system. The plan has drawn strong criticism from Russia. Both Mr Topolanek and Mr Kacynski have backed Washington's plans but political parties and the public in both the Czech Republic and Poland remain divided on the issue.