Missile defense base decision expected by end of August

For some months now there has been speculation about the United States building a new missile base somewhere in Central Europe. Initially analysts tipped Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic as key candidate countries for the base. Hungary now appears to be out of the running and it would seem the chances of a base being built here are increasing - on Sunday the Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, said it was almost certain Prague would play some part in the project. Richard Krpac, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, explains the latest developments:

Czech foreign minister Cyril Svoboda
"The Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic believes that the likelihood that we will be asked by the U.S. government about the possibility of placement of the missile defense base on Czech territory is pretty high. According to our knowledge there are now only two countries being examined by the group of experts from the Pentagon: the Czech Republic, and Poland. In both of these countries there are several sites which are being examined from various scientific and technological points of view. We believe that the group of experts will issue their report about which location is most convenient for missile defense by the end of August."

There is much speculation in Monday's media about what form this base may take, whether it would be a missile defense base or simply a base to house U.S. detection radar. Which option looks more likely for the Czech Republic?

"We are just preparing for the offer, which either will, or will not come. What is certain is that the Pentagon is trying to find a location to place radar and several—approximately ten—anti-missile rockets. Whether the location will be central Europe, in Poland and in the Czech Republic, that's still to be decided after the ruling of the U.S. Congress. But it is possible that there will be radar placed in one country and missiles placed in the other country, or it could also be decided that both components of the system will be placed in one country."

There is a poll that has been released, based on the opinion of 400 people, that support for this missile base in the Czech Republic is not very high. Sunday's TV debate focused on American desires and U.S. control of the base in Central Europe, wherever it would be located. Does the Foreign Ministry foresee any serious intrusions on Czech national sovereignty if the base were to be located in the Czech Republic?

"First of all, let me mention that the poll conducted by the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, was done during the summer season and it was based only on a couple hundred respondents. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's a poor opinion poll, but the results could be a little different if it was done according to the usual standards. Besides this, we also believe that it will be up to the Czech parliament and the Czech government to negotiate with the American government on the criteria and conditions of the possible placement of the U.S. missile defense base on Czech territory."