The United States "to scrap the East European anti-missile project"

17. 9. 2009 / Jan Čulík

Barack Obama's government has indicated that it will scrap the "Star Wars" anti-missile project for Eastern Europe, since the threat of long-range missiles from Iran is now deemed to be small. The US government is however leaving open the option to re-activate the project, should the threat of Iranian long-range missiles against Europe become real.

The US missile defence has become an extremely controversial and divisive issue in internal Central European politics since the time when the Czech-language internet daily Britské listy broke the news in the Czech Republic, in July 2004 HERE, (Britské listy quoted by the Guardian newspaper HERE), that George Bush's government planned to build US military bases in Central Europe and was talking to the Czech government about this.

The Czech government concealed the information that it was negotiating with the United States about missile defence from the voting public before the general election in June 2006. It asked the US authorities not to publicise the fact before the June 2006 election. No Czech political party had the missile defence project as part of its election programme.

The results of the June 2006 general election was a draw and no party was able to form a government for many months. The project could not be progressed from the Czech side until February 2007, when two social democratic MPs defected to support the right of centre coalition government. Commentators speculated about possible bribery. The government's mandate, based on the strength of two defectors and on parliamentary majority of 2 per cent, was thus rather questionable. The right of Centre Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek was caught lying in parliament regarding the US anti-missile project. Etc.

The Czech government assumed a confused position regarding the US missile project. At times, it argued that the anti-missile project is needed "to protect us from Iran and North Korea". When critics pointed out that such a threat is unrealistic, the Czech government began to argue that the project is really aimed against Russia.

The Czech population regarded as particularly outrageous the fact that the US authorities wished to build their missile base less than 30 miles from the Czech capital, Prague. Would the United States also build a military base, vulnerable to terrorist attack, less than 40 miles from Washington, people asked. Many people regarded the project as a sign of US arrogance.

In the Czech context, the US missile project acquired strong meaning in local politics. Pro-American activists began regarding it as a sign of US protection of Central Europe against "still communist Russia", anti-American activists saw it as a manifestation of new American imperialism.

Paradoxically, the traumatic experience of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by foreign troops was used as a justification both by the pro-US missile and anti-US missile activists. The pro-American activists wanted the US military presence in the country to make sure that "the Russian soldier would never again set foot on Czech soil", while the anti-American activists wished to make sure that "no foreign soldier would ever set foot on Czech soil, lthe way the Russians did in the past".

The opinion polls in the Czech Republic have shown consistently that 60 - 70 per cent of the Czech voters were against the building of the US missile base in their country, in spite of expensive advertising campaigns by the Czech government to persuade the population that the US missile system is a "good thing".


Obsah vydání | Pátek 26.2. 2010