US plans for anti-missile shield in Czech Republic and Poland

Report from a Speak Up Europe panel discussion

, par Peter Stadler

US plans for anti-missile shield in Czech Republic and Poland

On 31 October 2007 JEF Slovakia, in cooperation with the Union of European Federalists (UEF), the European Movement International (EMI) and JEF Europe’s project European Vibes, organised a discussion on “EU Foreign and Security Policy – setting up a radar station in Czech Republic and Poland”. The main speakers and guests of this event, which was moderated by Radovan Geist from Euractiv, were the American ambassador to Slovakia Mr. Rudoplhe Meaker Vallee and Mr. Antonin Berdych from the Czech Association for International Affairs.

The main topic of the meeting were the advantages and disadvantages of planting the anti-missile defence system in Czech Republic and Poland, as well as taking into account the possible consequences for the whole Central European region. The discussion was the last one within the project “Speak up Europe” which aims at gathering the opinions and views of European citizens in all member countries and is financed through the European Commission’s Plan D.

The United States plan to base ten interceptor rockets in Poland as well as build up a radar station in Czech Republic designed to be able to detect and track missiles. This plan is being highly criticized by the Russian representatives objecting that the system counts against Russia and could threaten its own defences.

The US perspective

The American ambassador Mr. Vallee points at the fact that over the last few years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of countries which are capable to use ballistic weapons. However, it does not mean they will also act as “rationally” as did the governments of the US and Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Furthermore, Mr. Vallee finds the Russian reaction unsubstantiated, as the suggested number of missiles in Poland is inadequate in comparison with the potential of Russian arsenal. Moreover, the location of the Czech and Polish base is not suitable for the protection against Russian missiles. As Mr. Vallee added, the Americans have welcomed the Russian offer of utilizing the Azerbaijan base, although it could not be a substitute for the Czech radar.

The Czech perspective

According to Mr. Berdych from the Association for International Affairs, who joined the debate, the threat of Iran against Central and Western European countries needs to be perceived as a “very serious one”. Berdych also draws attention to the discrepancy in the statements made by Iran. The country, on one hand, claims its preparation for the attack on Israel ; on the other hand it is developing weapons with much greater range which can threaten the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Besides Iran or North Korea, Berdych considers as a potential threat also unstable economies like Pakistan. He finds the European countries incapable of protecting themselves alone against threats of this kind and according to him, the only country which is able to supply necessary technologies are the United States.

Berdych also rejects the objections to the ambiguous effectiveness of the American shield. “It is better than nothing”, he said. He thinks that the grounds for Russian criticism are the goals in domestic policy, diplomacy or the persisting perception of Eastern Europe as the sphere of its influence. In connection with this he also said it is unacceptable when Russia tries to veto the decisions of the Czech and Polish government.

Links :

- JEF Slovakia : www.jefslovakia.eu
- JEF Europe : www.jef.eu
- UEF : www.federaleurope.org
- EMI : www.europeanmovement.org
- Speak up Europe : www.speakupeurope.eu
- European Vibes : www.european-vibes.eu

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