Washington says radar deal could mean big business for Czechs

General Henry Obering and Mirek Topolánek, photo: CTK

Talks between Prague and Washington on the possible stationing of a US radar base on Czech territory acquired a new dimension on Wednesday. The director of the US Missile Defense Agency Henry Obering arrived in Prague flanked by a group of American defense industry business leaders to discuss the possible commercial and scientific benefits for Czech firms if the country agreed to participate in the US missile defense project.

General Henry Obering and Mirek Topolánek,  photo: CTK
General Henry Obering’s working visit to Prague was to take the Czech-American talks into a new phase and give Czechs an idea of how much they could benefit from participating in the US missile defense project. But on arriving in Prague General Obering made it clear that the main reason why Czechs should agree to host a US tracking radar had nothing to do with US dollar signs.

“Today Iran cannot range the majority of Europe. We think that is going to change very quickly in the near future – in the next several years.”

While General Obering put forward his arguments at a special session of the country’s National Security Council on Thursday, a two day seminar attended by Czech and American business leaders outlined possible areas of cooperation. According to the current plan the US would spend some 100 million dollars on the radar base in its initial stage and Czech firms would be able to help with its construction, mechanics, telecommunication and energy installations. Czech Academy of Sciences president Václav Pačes said he was impressed by the possibilities opening up.

Czech Academy of Sciences president Václav Pačes
“As I see it this would really give Czech experts the chance to work with rich prospering companies who have both the means and know-how needed to put scientific results into practice right away.”

The Czech side has said it could offer its experience in the field of nanotechnology, computer technology, chemistry, biotechnology and explosives. According to Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg an agreement allowing Czech firms and scientists to take part in the US missile defense project could be reached by the end of June, on condition that the Czech Republic agrees to host the US radar. Lucrative as the US offer is, it will not be easy for the Czech government to make such a commitment. Only two of the three parties in government support it, the opposition Social Democrats and Communists are strongly against and if opinion polls are anything to go by then 70 percent of Czechs do not want a US radar in the country at any price.