Thursday, November 6, 2008

another treaty-signature and a strange congratulation

Right before the presidential elections there were are major news in to report on: last Friday the United States and the Czech Republic signed a framework agreement outlining terms for deploying a planned missile-tracking radar station on Czech territory.

The signed agreement does not come for free: U.S. Missile Defense Agency chief Henry Obering announced that the United States would provide $600,000 for Czech scientific research in exchange for agreeing to host the station – a sum that reminds of fire sale prices. It is a far cry from the $20bn that the Polish neighbors originally demanded.

The treaty still awaits parliamentary ratification which should – according to Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek be put off until the next U.S. administration. So it sounds more like: “Okay, you get your signature but we will wait until the next president comes into office. Then we will (quietly) renegotiate.”

AFP reports:

"We want a delay to make sure about the attitude of the new American administration," said Topolanek. Initially, the Czechs were planning to ratify the missile shield agreements without waiting for the US presidential election results.
Some have no doubts about Obama’s attitude: Czech unsuccessful presidential candidate Jan Svejnar told the press that the missile shield project will go on despite the financial crisis even during the term of President Barack Obama. Poland shares this expectation.

In the meantime the Czech opposition Social Democratic Party demanded on November 3 that the Constitutional Court examines the legality of two deployment-agreements.

Faced with all these uncertainties the United States’ Missile Defense Agency is not getting tired to reiterating one of its old threats in order to increase the pressure on Warsaw and Prague. MDA Chieftain Trey Obering said that the United States has a fall-back plan for its European missile defense project should either Poland or the Czech Republic choose not to house key installations. However, he did not elaborate on this mysterious Plan B.

General Obering mentioned already last week that he is worried that delays in Poland's ratification could upset a tight timetable for deploying American missiles here to ward off attacks from so-called rogue states. He expects that interceptor base to be in operation in 2013 or 2014. The original deadline was set to 2012. Given the progress – or the lack of it – in the Czech Republic, it will not take long before we can hear a similar MBA addressing Prague.

The Russian President Medvedev came up with his own form of congratulating the newly elected U.S. President: he ordered the deployment of short-range missile systems in the Kaliningrad region on the EU's eastern border to counter the planned US missile defense installations in Eastern Europe.
"There will also be radio-electronic neutralisation of the new US missile defence installations from the Kaliningrad region," he added.
The idea of deploying Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad oblast is not new. Russia has been threatening to move Iskander missiles to Kalinigrad since April last year, but until now no specific order had been given.

We will see if Medvedev really lives up to his announcement or if this just an attempt to deviate the Russian public's attention from the difficulties caused by the financial crisis by providing them with an option be proud of the wannabe-strong and in military terms powerful country.

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