For weeks now, the issue of a possible U.S. anti-missile defense base in central Europe has ignited much discussion in both the Czech Republic and in neighbouring Poland. According to official statements from Washington D.C., one or both of these countries will be offered the possibility of hosting an American anti-missile facility. Such a base would house only defensive missiles, and be under the administrative control of the United States. We take a look at both sides of this sensitive topic.
In this week's One on One, my guest is Martin Palous, the new Czech Ambassador to the United Nations. Martin Palous has long been a leading Czech intellectual and his c.v. lists many important positions and publications. He was one of the first people to sign Charter 77 and was the dissident group's spokesman in 1986. When change came in late 1989 he was a key figure in the Civic Forum movement, and since the Velvet Revolution he has held numerous positions in politics, the civil service, and academia. Martin Palous was the freshly-appointed Czech
The minister of defence, Jiri Sedivy, believes it would be better for
the Czech Republic to take part in a United States anti-missile defence
system as part of NATO, rather than with the US alone. Speaking in
Saturday's Pravo, Mr Sedivy said if the system was developed through
NATO it could increase the cohesion of the alliance in the long term.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic's ambassador to NATO, Stefan Fule, said the US was apparently going to decide on the most suitable location for a proposed base in central Europe after a NATO summit in November. US military experts have visited potential sites in the Czech Republic, though Poland is also in the running to host the base.
An Internet news site - aktualne.cz - has suggested that the Czech Republic may be more suitable than Poland for a possible US missile defence facility. The information, according to the server, comes from findings by expert teams which visited sites in both Poland and the Czech Republic this summer. Experts visited three areas in the Czech Republic alone, assessing logistics and infrastructure. But, according to aktualne.cz, a positive assessment does not necessarily mean the US will opt for the Czech Republic: political criteria, too, are playing a role. Early public opinion polls suggested that a majority of Czechs would prefer the base to be built elsewhere, and a number of political parties have raised the question of a possible referendum on the issue. According to some sources the US may propose a radar site in the Czech Republic rather than the actual missile defence facility. A final decision by the US is expected next month.
The Czech Republic has not been taken off the list of possible
countries to host an anti-missile base and radar system that the United
States is hoping to station in Central Europe, the US Embassy in Prague
said on Saturday. The statement was issued in reaction to claims made
by outgoing Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek in Saturday's issue of Pravo
newspaper that the United States is no longer considering the Czech
Republic as a site for its base.
A team of US experts has already inspected potential sites on Czech territory, sparking off debate over the potential threat to the Czech citizens' security and whether or not Czechs should decide on hosting the base in a referendum. Several international press reports last week also suggested that Washington plans to approach London, following mounting opposition to the base's presence in Central Europe.
The first signs of discontent over potential plans to build a US missile interceptor base on Czech territory made a tentative appearance on Monday, as around one hundred demonstrators gathered in Prague to make their feelings known. The demonstration - organised by Czech and American peace activists - was a tiny one, and briefly descended into a slanging match with a group of Young Communists.
Revelations of an alleged plot to blow up transatlantic passenger aircraft have once again brought the issue of security very much to the forefront of people's minds. Ours is a society grimly obsessed with security - who would have thought ten years ago that passengers would be prevented from taking soft drinks on board for fear they might contain explosives? So just how safe are we, especially tucked away here in the heart of sleepy central Europe? In this week's One on One, Rob Cameron talks to Radek Khol, co-ordinator of the Centre for Security
For some months now there has been speculation about the United States building a new missile base somewhere in Central Europe. Initially analysts tipped Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic as key candidate countries for the base. Hungary now appears to be out of the running and it would seem the chances of a base being built here are increasing - on Sunday the Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, said it was almost certain Prague would play some part in the project. Richard Krpac, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, explains the latest
A team of U.S. military experts arrives in the Czech Republic next week to examine potential sites for a new missile defence base. The United States is said to be considering either the Czech Republic, Poland or Hungary for the new facility, but a Polish newspaper reports that Washington has already reached agreement with Warsaw. Rob Cameron has the following report.
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