Czech Republic Exits Obama Missile Shield Plan

(Jun. 15) -Top diplomats from the six Shanghai Cooperation Organization member nations pose at a meeting in February. The organization has issued a statement critical of U.S. missile defense efforts (Ilas Omarov/Getty Images).
(Jun. 15) -Top diplomats from the six Shanghai Cooperation Organization member nations pose at a meeting in February. The organization has issued a statement critical of U.S. missile defense efforts (Ilas Omarov/Getty Images).

The Czech Republic, disappointed with its diminished role in a U.S. initiative to establish a European missile shield, has opted against any participation in the plan, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday (see GSN, July 30, 2010).

The Eastern European nation would have hosted a large radar base under the Bush administration's missile defense proposal for Europe. President Obama scrapped that plan in 2009 in favor of a "phased adaptive approach" that offered a smaller role for the Czech Republic.

The United States now intends over the next decade to deploy increasingly advanced missile interceptors on sea and land as a stated defense against potential missile attacks from the Middle East, particularly Iran (see GSN, June 9). It is not yet known which NATO country will host the missile shield's radar base (see GSN, April 7).

Washington did propose building a missile threat warning center in the Czech Republic, but officials in Prague ultimately turned down the offer.

"They gave us an offer and we assessed that," Czech Defense Minister Alexander Vondra said. "I would say we've solved it in an elegant way."

Vondra said his government would like a role in the missile shield but "definitely not in this way."

"We can return to it at some point but it's premature at the moment. We have certain ideas but it's too early to speak about them," he said.

Vondra gave his comments following a Wednesday meeting in Prague with U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn (Karel Janicek, Associated Press/Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 15).

Meanwhile, Russia obtained the support of China and other members of a regional security organization in condemning the Obama administration's missile defense plan, Reuters reported.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which encompasses Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, at a meeting in Astana issued a statement that criticized any one-sided development of antimissile capabilities as a threat to worldwide strategic stability (Alexei Anishchuk, Reuters, June 15).

"The SCO states believe that the unilateral and unlimited growth of missile defense systems by any state or a group of states can cause damage to strategic stability and international security," ITAR-Tass quoted the organization as saying (ITAR-Tass, June 15).

Moscow has long asserted that U.S. and NATO plans to erect missile defenses in Europe could pose a serious threat to the Russian nuclear deterrent. The Kremlin was infuriated by the Bush-era missile defense proposal; though it was initially mollified by the Obama administration's revised approach, it has in recent months raised strident criticism of the plan, particularly those aspects that deal with the fielding approaching 2020 of interceptors capable of eliminating intermediate-range missiles and ICBMs.

NATO and Moscow agreed last November to study areas for potential antimissile cooperation but the two military powers have not yet been able to bridge their substantial differences in views for the framework of a European missile shield.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov argued last week that any NATO system should only be constructed to intercept short- and medium-range missiles, Interfax reported. The U.S. program focuses in the coming years on such threats, but ultimately would be expanded to counter long-range missiles as well.

"If we say that there is a potential threat from the proliferation of short- and medium-range missiles, let's build a system responding to such threats," Antonov said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio.

"[The interceptors'] velocity should be up to 3.5 kilometers per second, and it should not reach 5, 6, or 7 kilometers per second," Antonov said. "It should not be able to overtake an ICBM if one is launched, God forbid."

Additionally, there should be a cap on the quantity of U.S. missile interceptors deployed, he said. "There should be not a thousand but 100, 200, or 300 of them, so that they cannot intercept all ICBMS."

Under the Obama plan, the United States reportedly envisages by 2020 having some 440 missile interceptors deployed around Europe.

Antonov also demanded that any land-based missile interceptors only be deployed in Southern Europe, as Washington and NATO have both asserted the shield is intended to defend against missile attacks from the Middle East.

"If the threat is from the south, why are they huddling up to Russia's northwestern borders, where our missile bases are stationed?" he asked (Interfax/Kiev Post, June 14).

Elsewhere, U.S. Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) last week declared he was prepared to block Senate approval of the White House nominee for ambassador to Russia until he receives answers to questions about antimissile collaboration between Washington and Moscow, Foreign Policy reported.

Kyl is seeking more details on a comment made by nominee Mike McFaul, now the National Security Council point man for Russia. In May, McFaul stated that "'we got a new signal on missile defense cooperation that as soon as I'm done here I'll be engaging on that with the rest of the U.S. government,'" Kyl said.

"I'm concerned that my staff asked the national security staff about this over a week ago and we still have heard nothing back," Kyl told senators. "I hope to hear back from the administration soon, especially if the administration expects the Senate to act promptly on Mr. McFaul's nomination" (Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy, June 14).

June 15, 2011
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The Czech Republic, disappointed with its diminished role in a U.S. initiative to establish a European missile shield, has opted against any participation in the plan, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday (see GSN, July 30, 2010).