On September 17, the Obama administration released a statement saying that all plans to build a radar base in the Czech Republic and Poland would be canceled. A month later, it seemed that the Administration had played the old bait and switch.
The radar base, which was first proposed in 2007, has been a heated topic in Central and Eastern Europe. Even after countries like the Czech Republic and Poland had agreed to cooperate in such a project, their parliaments never ratified the missile treaties because, among other reasons, the overwhelming majority of their citizens oppose it.
The Czech journal Britsky List writes that the United States will indeed continue with its plans to build the missile defense base. The original Bush plan would have placed ten interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic. For obvious reasons, Russia was strongly opposed to the idea of missiles in their backyard. The new Obama plan still focuses on aiding European security against the supposed future nuclear threat—Iran—though Russia is now being encouraged to participate.
According to Dean Wilkening at Stanford University, the "new" plan will focus on short- and medium-range missiles which will be deployed in Turkey around the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean. An intercontinental missile defense system will remain in central Europe—i.e., Austria, the Czech Republic, and Poland. Although this new plan sounds strikingly similar to the original Bush plan pitched to Central Europe three years before, it is actually worse. Countries like the Czech Republic, who were only housing a radar base, will now have missiles. Despite many objections from citizens’ groups, NATO has backed plans for the new missile defense system.
Experts from the Obama administration have released various statements that Russia perceives this new project as less threatening. Perhaps Russia hasn’t gotten the memo. According to Czech news, Russia continues to threaten the Czechs about their decision to house an American missile base by leaving Russian missiles pointed in the Czechs’ direction.
Even more ironic, perhaps, than the Obama administration’s missile "defense" plan are recent comments from Joe Biden to the Czechs. For those countries still hesitant to join the missile project (such as the Ukraine or Georgia—countries that are closest by borders and ties to Russia), Biden recently offered some advice: "It is important to realize that you are in the very middle and you inspired the world. You are a model, which should inspire the countries in Eastern Europe like the Ukraine and Georgia."
This statement is altogether unnerving. Anyone who is even slightly aware of Czech history knows that its middle position status has led to continual insecurity. In the past, when countries such as Poland have fought, the Czech Republic has surrendered. They aren’t quite proud of this pattern. So, with that in mind, could Biden really be suggesting that these other countries submit and let more imperialistic ones conquer them?
Fortunately, groups such as Nezakladnam (the NoBases Initiative) have been resisting these plans since 2007. Recently, in cooperation with the peace movement and Amnesty International, they have been informing the public and marching regularly in Prague. As long as there are plans for a missile base, groups will not be taking Biden’s advice. This is the 21st century and the Czech Republic would like to break free from the mold of its past.
Erica Carlino is a freelance artist and activist. She works for cultural center development between the U.S. and Eastern Europe. She holds a masters degree in Sociology and Public Policy from the Anglo-American University in Prague.