U.S. radar in Czech Republic: betrayal of national interests


MOSCOW. (Jan Carnogursky, former prime minister of Slovakia, for RIA Novosti)

The Czech government and the United States have signed an agreement on the deployment of a missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic, thereby launching an illogical geopolitical experiment that is not suited to the country's international situation or modern Czech history.

The agreement was signed by the government of Mirek Topolanek, which does not have a majority in parliament and has to "recruit" the votes of opposition deputies to ensure the approval of the laws it needs.

For months now the Czech media have been trying to calculate how many millions of dollars this costs the ruling coalition.

The agreement with the United States is to be ratified in parliament, but the Green Party, which is part of the ruling coalition, is expected to oppose it. At the very least, some Green deputies will abstain, if not vote against the agreement, which will further decrease the ruling minority.

Jiri Paroubek, leader of the country's main opposition, the Social Democratic Party, has said that if his party won the parliamentary elections, it would not honor the radar agreement.

If the Czech parliament does not ratify the agreement, it will turn the signing ceremony into a comedy worthy of the Good Soldier Schweik from Jaroslav Hasek's hilarious satire of military life and bureaucracy.

As many as 70% of Czechs oppose the deployment of the radar, which is meant to be linked to the planned antimissile base in Poland. However, the Polish government has not yet signed the agreement and may never sign it.

Washington has signed the agreement with the Czech Republic against the wishes of several major European Union countries. The move suggests that the radar is needed more to look beyond the Urals than to intercept Iranian missiles, which cannot reach Poland anyway.

The Czech government is a political collaborator that cannot carry out the deep economic reforms it promised during the election campaign that brought it to power. But it has signed the agreement with the U.S., which is vivid proof of Washington's interest in the radar and the amount of pressure it has put on the Czech government to accept it.

The agreement has seriously undermined the country's traditional foreign policy strategy, according to which the Czech Republic is a part of the West that wants to have solid, and even privileged, relations with the East.

Czechoslovakia was the first central European country to recognize the Soviet Union de facto in 1922. It signed an alliance agreement with it in 1935, which complemented a similar agreement it had with France.

Between the first and second world wars, Czechoslovakia was the key state of the Little Entente (1920-38), an alliance with Romania and the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later renamed Yugoslavia). But at the Munich Conference in 1938 France and Britain sacrificed it to Germany.

Czech President in exile Edvard Benes, who was in London during WWII, tried to convince Western politicians of the importance of joining forces with the Soviet Union. In 1943, he signed an agreement on cooperation between the new Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. Czechoslovaks fought Germans on the Eastern Front, which was part of Benes's strategy for attaining his main goals.

After WWII, the new Czechoslovakia (and therefore the current Czech Republic) regained its lost prewar territory. Slovakia even expanded by incorporating part of Hungary.

Unlike Czechoslovakia, which kept an equal distance from the East and the West, Poland opted to align itself with remote Western powers between the two world wars and after WWII, even though these powers did not help it solve vital problems.

In 2004, the Czech parliament adopted a law recognizing the contribution of Benes. But the radar agreement with the United States runs contrary to the will of the architect of Czech foreign policy.

Ever since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1992, the Czech Republic has been searching for its place on the European scene. It has no politicians of Benes's class. Instead of balancing between the East and the West, the Czech Republic is emulating Poland's prewar policy of reliance on a remote ally. Prague has allied with the United States.

The Czech Republic is a member of the European Union, yet its politicians regularly criticize EU policy. At the same time, it is very active in NATO, the main instrument of American interference in European politics.

Poland's indecision regarding the U.S. antimissiles probably suits the Czech Republic, because it gives it a chance to push Poland from its place of the United State's second largest European ally after Britain. But is this a wise geopolitical stance? That is a completely different question.

It appears that Slovakia is moving in Benes's footsteps. It is an EU member and will soon convert from the national currency to the euro. Slovaks protested plans to join NATO much more fiercely than the Czechs did. Slovakia has not recognized Kosovo's independence. Its government is sending more friendly signals to Moscow, and it was thanks to the support of Russia, the EU and the U.S. that Slovak diplomats are now internationally respected.

If the two countries had not split, the decision on the U.S. missile-tracking radar would have been taken in Prague, but the radar itself would have been placed in the Slovak mountains, from where it would see much further into Russia than it will from its planned deployment site on the Czech plains.

The deployment of the radar is a direct challenge to Russia's foreign policy. Unless repelled, this challenge will become another proof of Russia's ejection from Europe.

How will this affect European stability and security? European politicians, unable to resist the American offensive, have no answer.

In this situation, Russia cannot expect Europe to support it even when its security is threatened. At the most, the leading European states will remain passive while trying to determine how all this will end.

Russia can rely only on itself in its European policy, and it must reply to the deployment of the U.S. radar in the Czech Republic accordingly. Its reply must be serious, or else new steps will be taken to push it out of Europe.

Jan Carnogursky was first deputy prime minister of Czechoslovakia (1989-1990), prime minister of Slovakia (1991-1992) and Slovakia's justice minister (1998-2002).

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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