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Czech Political Machinations Could Sink ABM Deal Yet

Miloslav Vlcek told Russia's Vesti TV that his Czech Social Democratic Party, combined with the Communists, control 96 seats out of 200 in the lower and main house of the Czech Parliament. He also predicted that some members of the ruling Civic Democratic Party would also come out against radar base agreements.
by Martin Sieff
Washington (UPI) Nov 25, 2008
The rollercoaster saga of the proposed U.S. ballistic missile defense bases in Central Europe took another downward dip on Friday: The powerful speaker of the Czech Parliament said he was now sure the crucial radar base to be located in his country would ever be built.

"I am certain that the radar will not be deployed," Miloslav Vlcek, speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and member of the opposition Czech Social Democratic Party, stated on Russia's Vesti television channel, RIA Novosti reported.

The Czech Republic in July committed itself to allowing the United States to build an advanced radar array on its territory. The agreement was concluded by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.

Both governments have since pushed ahead with turning that diplomatic ceremony into reality. On Sept. 19 Czech Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanova and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates approved the necessary Status of Forces Agreement to allow American personnel to operate the radar station.

It is essential to guide Ground-based Mid-course Interceptors to be located at a companion base in neighboring Poland to deter any future Iranian nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles that may be fired at the United States or Western Europe.

However, as RIA Novosti observed, the Rice-Schwarzenberg and Gates-Parkanova agreements both still face a process of ratification in the Czech Parliament. And Vlcek last week also announced he would prevent any debate on the issue being held until U.S. President-elect Barack Obama takes office Jan. 20 and makes his wishes on the issue known.

Obama, several of his key defense advisers and prominent Democrats in the U.S. Congress have expressed their skepticism about the value of building the Polish and Czech bases.

The Democrats running the outgoing 110th Congress in Washington proved remarkably bipartisan in preserving support and finance for major ongoing ballistic missile defense programs, but they heavily slashed funding for the BMD base in Poland, although they did not try to kill it outright.

However, with the presidential and congressional elections safely won and Obama voted in for a four-year term of office, the Democrats in both the White House and on Capitol Hill may be bolder in seeking to scrap the Polish and Czech proposed BMD bases in an effort to defuse tensions with Russia.

Vlcek told Russia's Vesti TV that his Czech Social Democratic Party, combined with the Communists, control 96 seats out of 200 in the lower and main house of the Czech Parliament. He also predicted that some members of the ruling Civic Democratic Party would also come out against radar base agreements, RIA Novosti said.

"Ratification requires at least 101 votes," Vlcek said.

The ruling Civic Democratic Party, headed by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, commands only 81 seats.

The Russian government of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin contends that the GBI base in Poland and the radar tracking array in the Czech Republic are really intended to shoot down Russia's survivable second-echelon nuclear deterrent missiles that would survive a pre-emptive attack by U.S. nuclear forces. But the U.S. government has denied this is the case.

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Russian Iskander Missiles Ready To Roll
Washington (UPI) Nov 24, 2008
The Russian armed forces are prepared to deploy their short-range Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad province to target the proposed U.S. ballistic missile defense base to be built in Poland, right now, or whenever needed, Russia's top general warned Wednesday.

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