Rockets and radars

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A report appearing in the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza has been raising eyebrows across the Czech Republic. It suggests that US negotiators were initially prepared to place both the proposed radar and rocket bases on Czech soil. It also suggests that increasingly rocky US-Polish negotiations may lead the US government to again seek to turn to the Czech Republic for both. Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra has insisted that such negotiations were carried out under the former governments of Vladimír Špidla and Jiří Paroubek – not under the current administration. Yet, concerns have been raised about the notion of an intensification of Bush administration plans. For more perspective Dominik Jun spoke to Martin Shabu, an analyst for the Association for International Affairs:

“I think it would completely change the debate which we are currently having in the Czech Republic if there is a real defence component added concerning PATRIOT missiles. And the situation in the Czech Republic, particularly the political scene is not very stable at the moment and it will be very difficult even to get the treaty concerning the radar base through parliament. So if there were any changes, it would be even more difficult.”

And do you think it is likely that these missiles will actually be located in the Czech Republic instead?

“I think that this is a bit of tactics from the American side. They are trying to show the Polish negotiators that Poland is not the only place in the universe where components can be located. So it’s partly a kind of game, because you know that we have now concluded the first part of the major treaty between the Czech Republic and the US. Now the second part must be negotiated and we have heard from our senior officials that they do not want to have to do many major changes in these treaties, so I can’t really imagine a situation in which the Czech Republic would be the new location.”

You mentioned that this might be a negotiating tactic. Is there not a danger that this tactic might backfire in that it may be perceived that the Bush administration, which is essentially on its way out, is not really managing to succeed, and that Poland is waiting out the clock and that the Czech Republic is perhaps ill-advised to undertake this treaty with the Bush administration?

“Well, it is difficult. Of course, the timing is not very good for either of the parties. If we know that in November, there will be a new president in the US, it might happen that the scope of activities focused on anti-missile defence in the world will slightly or even completely change. It is part of tactics from both sides – Polish negotiators showing that they want to get something, from the Americans, and on the other hand, the Americans trying to persuade them that there are real and viable alternatives for them where to put their bases.”

Why do you think that the Polish negotiations seem to be not going as well as the Czech ones?

“I think that it is partly a tradition. We are much less skilled in negotiation with such a big partner as the United States. Poland is a much bigger country with much greater political influence and also their connections in the US Congress are far better than Czech ones. So I think that this is the difference.”