The Czech foreign minister Alexandr Vondra appeared to confirm this week what defence analysts have been speculating upon for some time: if the United States decides to place part of its missile defence system in Europe, the Czech Republic will almost certainly be asked to host a radar and tracking station, not a full-blown missile base. However there are still many hurdles to be overcome before work on such a facility can begin.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has said the Czech Republic wants a clear signal to be given at NATO's Riga summit later this month whether countries in the front line to join the military alliance will be offered membership soon. Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and the former Soviet republic of Georgia are in the waiting line to join NATO as part of its next enlargement. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on a recent visit to Prague that NATO countries should give a "positive signal" on further enlargement at the Riga summit on November 28 and 29.
Several Czech women's organisations are opposed to building a US anti-missile base in the Czech Republic, fearing it would increase the risk of terrorist attack. The women are reacting to the Czech Republic being one of several countries in Central Europe named as a potential site of such a base. The protesting organisations' representatives say a referendum should be held before a definite decision is made. Opinion polls suggest that three fifths of the population would vote against the US base.
Czech soldiers from the anti-chemical unit will help guard next month's
NATO summit in Latvia, the cabinet, which is expected to resign next
week, decided on Wednesday. Twenty-seven experts on chemical,
biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons will be deployed to Riga,
where they will serve from November 21 to December 9. The Czech
contingent will be part of a multi-national unit but its expenses paid
for by the Czech Republic, the Defence Ministry said.
The government also decided to send three specialists on pyrotechnics to Lebanon. The team is to take part in the UN's peace-keeping unit UNIFIL.
Approximately 50 anarchists have gathered near Caslav, central Bohemia, to protest against an American anti-missile defense base that could be established in the Czech Republic. The protest, organized by the CSAF group, has also attracted members of ultra-right groups who have a history of violent clashes with the anarchists. The protestors are against the base, saying it would risk the Czech Republic coming under a nuclear attack. The Czech Republic and Poland have both been slated as possible locations for a U.S. anti-missile defense base; an offer to house the base is expected to be made to one or both of these countries sometime this autumn.
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.
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