Czech Republic ready to participate in new US missile defence plan

Jan Fischer, Joe Biden (right), photo: CTK

The US Vice-President, Joe Biden, met with Czech officials in Prague on Friday on the third leg of his Eastern European tour intended to test the ground for the region’s participation in a new US missile defence plan. At a news conference following the talks, Mr Biden and Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said the Czech Republic was ready to get involved in the revamped project.

Jan Fischer, Joe Biden (right), photo: CTK
The Czech Republic is prepared to join a new US missile defence programme, the Vice-President of the United States, Joe Biden told reporters after meeting the Czech Prime Minister, Jan Fischer, in Prague on Friday.

“The Czech Republic stepped up and did their part in the previous missile defence plan, and today we discussed the potential role the Czech Republic could play in the new architecture, a better architecture that has the capacity to actually protect Europe, and does not just focus on the US. I am very appreciative that the prime minister stated to me that the Czech Republic is ready to be a part of that new architecture and discuss the terms this participation will take.”

For his part, Czech Prime Minister was somewhat more reserved when talking about a possible role for the Czech Republic, saying the country would only begin to seek its role within the new system after it has more information.

“The Czech Republic is ready to take part in designing such new architecture and seek its own position in it. As we receive more information, technical details and timelines, we will be seeking our place, making it more specific, and we’ll be doing it ourselves.”

The new shield, incorporated into NATO’s defence strategy, is set to replace the previous system, which included positioning a tracking radar base in the Czech Republic and a missile base in neighbouring Poland. The plan, promoted by the former administration of George W. Bush, provoked hostility from Russia, and was opposed by around 70 percent of Czechs. But some in Poland and the Czech Republic were concerned that the US was losing its interest in the region, and focusing on improving its relations with Russia instead.

Vice-President Joe Biden assured Czechs on Friday strategic cooperation between the United States and the Czech Republic would continue.

“A high-level defence team will come to Prague in early November to discuss this as well as defence cooperation in a range of areas. The new missile defence programme is designed to meet existing threats in Europe, with proven technology that will cover more of Europe, including the Czech Republic, more effectively than the previous system could have done. It also strengthens NATO defences against future, more advanced missile threats.”

Joe Biden, photo: CTK
The Czech and US delegations also discussed several other issues, particularly the Czech Republic’s energy strategy and diversification of its energy supplies. However, no further details were disclosed about whether the US firm Westinghouse was going to participate in the completion of a Czech nuclear power plant, a multi-billion deal to be clinched next year.

“We also discussed energy security where the Czech Republic has been a leader in Europe. We appreciate Prague’s efforts to move towards a greater interconnectivity for the EU’s gas and electric networks, a greater diversification of supply and routes, including the Nabucco pipeline project. We also discussed the effort for you to diversify the nuclear area as well.”

After meeting with the Czech president, Václav Klaus, at Prague castle, Mr Biden lunched with Czech politicians and business leaders, before heading home.