The United States and the Czech Republic today signed a framework agreement outlining terms for deploying a planned missile-tracking radar station on Czech territory, the Czech News Agency reported (see GSN, Oct. 30).
U.S. Missile Defense Agency chief Henry Obering, who signed the deal with Czech First Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Bartak, also announced that the United States would provide $600,000 for Czech scientific research in exchange for agreeing to host the station.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said Wednesday that ratification of the deals should be put off until the next U.S. administration, Agence France-Presse reported.
“We want a delay to make sure about the attitude of the new American administration," Topolanek said.
However, Obering yesterday dismissed concerns that Senator Barack Obama (Ill.), the Democratic presidential candidate, might be less amenable to the planned defenses than John McCain (Ariz.), the Republican presidential contender.
Obering also said that Poland was progressing too slowly toward ratifying a deal that would let the country host U.S. missile interceptors.
"I'm very concerned. That's probably the biggest concern I have at this point," he said during a trip to Poland.
"If we get ratification by the end of this year, we will still not be able to put an interceptor on the ground in Poland until 2012," he said, noting that work on the interceptor base would begin late next year at the earliest.
"And it will probably take us a year and a half or so to get all the interceptors in the ground. So in 2013 or 2014 it will be operation. The radar will be ready in about 2013," Obering added. "So the more we delay that, the longer it takes us to have the defense, and the more opportunity there would be for Iran to emerge" as a significant missile threat, he said.
The country’s parliament is still considering whether to back the plan, AFP reported.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski yesterday pressed Polish lawmakers to sign off on the deal “as soon as possible,” but some officials suggested that the agreement’s complexity has slowed ratification efforts (Jonathan Fowler, Agence France-Presse/Google News, Oct. 30).