Pundit: any reassurance from Biden important for Czechs

Joe Biden, photo: CTK

US Vice-President Joe Biden is coming to Prague, the third leg of his Eastern European tour. Some five weeks after the Obama administration shelved plans to build elements of missile defence in the Czech Republic and Poland, Mr Biden is expected to dispel concerns that the United States has pushed the region to the periphery of its interest. The head of Political Science Institute of Prague’s Charles University, Bořivoj Hnízdo, says any reassurance Mr Biden can give the Czech Republic will be very important.

Polish PM Donald Tusk,  Joe Biden  (right),  photo: CTK
“From the Czech perspective, it’s surely an important visit because in the last few weeks following the decision not to build a radar station in the Czech Republic, there has been a lot of debate among Czech politicians, the media as well as the public about the future of the Czech-American relations, or in other words, what the US involvement will be in this part of Europe.”

On his Eastern European tour, Mr Biden already visited Poland whose officials said they were interested in taking part in the revamped project of missile defence. What do you think Czech politicians will say tomorrow, after Mr Biden arrives in Prague?

“I think that in the end, the majority of Czech politicians and representatives of political parties will support this idea. But we of course have to bear in mind that Czech political parties are divided over the issue. There is a particular split between right- and left-wing parties. We also have to realize that today’s political situation in the Czech Republic is complicated – there was to be an early general election but it never happened, and now we have a government without political parties’ representations, so it’s a bit difficult from that point of view. So I expect the answer to be yes, but weaker than in Poland.”

Joe Biden,  photo: CTK
There is a number of strategic issues Czech politicians will want to discuss with Mr Biden, including a deal concerning the Transapline pipeline. Does Mr Biden have the authority to give any of these projects the green light?

“I think that in some ways, the US is interested in this project, and I also think we can expect an agreement of all political parties on this issue. It’s quite a natural policy to look for alternative sources of strategic materials, especially oil, and also for alternative transportation routes to the Czech Republic, rather than to be dependent exclusively on Russian oil.”

Former president Václav Havel told Radio Free Europe he expected Mr Biden to assure Czechs that Central and Eastern Europe has not disappeared from America’s field of vision. Do you think the US is in fact ready to act on this?

“Yes, the answer here is yes. But Czechs and other nations in this part of Europe know that the technical part of the project and the issue of the missile defence is in fact up to the Americans to decide. For Czechs, Poles and Rumanians, the most important thing is actually any gesture towards the region that the US is interested in it.”