“Neither a government information campaign, nor promised subsidies and visits by top politicians, the U.S. ambassador and experts have persuaded the locals to change their mind….They did not welcome the government’s promise of high subsidies for the region in connection with the radar base. Neoral and other mayors reiterated that they would not sell their opinions for money.”
— “Locals still oppose U.S. radar in Czech Brdy district,” Ceské Noviny, 3 July 2008
On July 8, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to arrive in Prague. Concurrent with her visit, a conference will be held on anti-missile defense featuring representatives from Raytheon and Boeing.1 The nature of the conference is obvious; it is an opportunity to garner support for the U.S. installation of the X-band radar by appealing to potential industry partners and the scientific community within the Czech Republic.
According to a recent report in Ceské Noviny, increased receptivity can be attributed in part to initial fears that “involvement [with the radar and base] would only be limited to auxiliary work such as fencing off the construction site, construction of the base buildings, removal of snow, maintenance of roads and waste disposal.”2
Since the beginning of the year, such fears have been assuaged by offering more inclusive and lucrative roles for the Czech armament industry and R&D sectors. Recent reports appearing in the press outside the U.S. mainstream, carry ledes such as, “US to fund Czech armament industry due to radar base (Xinhua, 30 June 2008).” And to assure interested parties and critical readers that this is not an incentive to buy political complacency, other ledes announce, “US to fund Czech research even without radar (Prague Daily Monitor, 30 June 2008).”
As Ceské Noviny succinctly states: “The situation later changed and Czechs are to have the opportunity to seek technologically more demanding deals.” More opportunities have arisen among the armament business and the scientific sectors because there is widespread opposition to the proposed plan. A well-organized coalition, under the general umbrella of the No Bases Initiative, has taken on the task of representing the will of 68-70% of the citizenry despite the continued dealmaking among high-ranking U.S. and Czech officials.3
The official narrative for Rice’s visit to Prague involves two treaties that are to be signed by representatives of the two governments. One is a general treaty regarding the radar base and the other, a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
The “treaties,” initiated by the U.S. under the present administration, are not treaties. The primary “treaty” is an “executive agreement.” It originated from the executive branch, circumventing congressional oversight and approval. The second, SOFA, as the complete wording implies, is an agreement between countries regarding the stationing of foreign troops.
On either of these agreements, the consensus of U.S. citizens has never been sought nor ever a consideration. Representatives and senators have not issued information on the plan to their constituents, and the only update to emerge outside of progressive sources in the U.S., has come from the Pentagon Press Secretary. At a DoD news briefing on June 17, Geoff Morrell told reporters that closure on the Czech radar plans is a matter of “finishing touches”: “[I]…can tell you — let me just give you an overall update on where we stand on missile defense…We believe we’ll finish those [agreements] up soon and are on track for the U.S. and the Czech Republic to sign a missile defense agreement next month.”4
Rice committing ink to paper in Prague does not represent a forgone conclusion. The signed agreements must pass the scrutiny of the Czech Parliament. Subsequent to this, if approval is gained, President Vaclav Klaus must add his signature for the agreements to come into effect.
If these two steps were to occur, funds for a contract previously negotiated between the Pentagon and Raytheon for $400 million, would then be released in full by the U.S. Congress. In turn, the relocation of the X-band radar from the Marshall Islands to the Czech Republic would begin.
Two timing considerations come into play with next week’s Prague convergence: members of the Czech parliament will be up for re-election soon and the current U.S. administration has six months remaining in office. Will members of parliament (MPs) vote as representatives of the people? With 68-70% of the population in opposition to the radar base, the rational conclusion would be that the agreements will not be ratified in this term. If Parliament does not ratify the agreements this term, foreign policy regarding anti-missile defense – and the more obvious concern, the will of the Czech people – may be re-evaluated by the incoming U.S. president.
On July 8 in Prague, reports place Rice in a five-star hotel, meeting briefly with the upper echelon to sign “treaties,” and later dining at the U.S. Embassy; members of the armament industry and scientists/researchers will be attending a conference featuring presentations by Raytheon and Boeing; and activists will be in the streets representing the will of 68-70% of the people.
It is yet to be seen which stratum of these various groupings will have the most influence on the Czech Parliament. Final agreement on the stationing of the radar base and U.S. troops on Czech soil is ultimately not the decision of Rice, Raytheon or Boeing. Despite the best efforts of the media and the military-industrial complex to persuade the public otherwise, Czech MPs hold the key to the present plan.
LARAY POLK is an artist and activist in Texas. She can be reached at: email@example.com
1 Rebecca Christie, “Exclusive: Raytheon Wins Big Bucks for Missile Radar Move,” Defensetech, 17 April 2008, http://www.defensetech.org/archives/004125.html
2 “Prague to host conference on anti-missile defense,” Ceské Noviny, 30 June 2008.
3 “More Czechs against US Missile Shield,” TVNZ, 5 June 2008, http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/536641/1830017; see also Katrina vanden Heuvel, “A New Solidarity,” The Nation, 24 June 2008, http://www.thenation.com/blogs/edcut/332243
4 “DoD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon, Arlington, Va.,” U.S. Department of Defense, 17 June 2008,
This article first appeared on Pacific Free Press