Prague faces three days of diplomatic flurry surrounding US-Russia summit
Prague will be in the world spotlight for the historic signature of a new nuclear arms control agreement between US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. That centrepiece event takes places at noon on Thursday in Prague Castle’s magnificent Spanish Hall. But the Czech capital is playing host to the leaders over three days in total.
Barack Obama does not get into the city until 9 am on Thursday morning. He will have an hour’s face to face meeting with Dmitry Medvedev before the signing of the arms agreement. Then, there is a celebratory lunch for around 70 guests, including top members of the Czech government, parliament and diplomats. After that the Russian president leaves for the airport. The two leaders are scheduled to overlap in Prague for six hours.
At the end of the day President Obama is holding a dinner at the US ambassador’s Prague residence for representatives of 11 countries from Central and Eastern Europe.
At the dinner there should be the presidents of the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Romania. They will be joined by the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Croatia. The basic message is likely to be reassurance that the US is not ditching countries in the region because it has reset relations with Russia.
The meeting is being billed by the Czech media as the biggest event in Prague for the last decade, bigger than the International Monetary Fund meeting in 2000, the NATO summit in 2002 or the events which accompanied the Czech presidency of the EU during the first half of last year. These are after all the heads of state of the world’s two biggest superpowers.
The stepped up security involves around 5,000 extra Czech police drafted in. There will be a parking ban on the main road into the city from the airport. Prague castle and surroundings will be closed from Wednesday to the public and will not reopen until after both presidents have left. Police have warned car drivers not to come to the city on Thursday because of the expected traffic chaos and advised people to use public transport.