Peaceniks, the Social Democrats, the Communists, as well as Russians at home and abroad are celebrating the scrapping of plans to station an anti-missile defence system in Europe. Everyone seems to be celebrating “the victory of the Czech people”.
This text is meant for readers who have not succumbed to this euphoria. It is aimed at rationally-thinking individuals, who are able to assess the situation in a broader context and not think just about their own personal wishes.
Obama’s decision was expected, but it still felt like being given the cold shoulder. But first it is necessary to get over our emotions and to return to strategic and rational thinking. Reactions that talk of rejecting potential future collaboration and wasting political capital when assessing unpopular projects may be understandable, but don’t get us anywhere. On the contrary, it is the sort of reaction that would please Russia and Iran.
That’s why it’s important to pay attention to missile defence in the future. Over the last 40 years, missile defence has undergone a turbulent evolution. So what the US is planning now might be very different from what ends up happening in a few years.
Even Obama will not be in the White House forever. If his domestic and foreign politics continue to be as hopeless as they are now, his chances of getting re-elected will be very small. It seems that after 30 years, the United States needs another lesson about how negotiating from a weaker position is not effective. Unfortunately, it will not be the United States alone that ends up dealing with the results of such a position.
In this respect, it is useful to sketch out Obama’s possible motives for this decision. If the president wanted to make a friendly gesture to Iran, he could have waited for the first multilateral negotiations with Iran. And if the current missile defence system is so bad, why won’t it be removed from Alaska?
If the US administration wants to try to please Russia, its actions are even harder to understand. Russia, after all, immediately let it be known that it would not be making any concessions. It almost seems as though, in resetting US-Russian relations, the Americans have erased their memory as well.
If the aim was to help the currently ongoing negotiations that would replace START I, they should have taken into account that, when it comes to reducing the number of strategic nuclear warheads and weapons carriers, it’s primarily up to Russia, which will be forced to reduce its nuclear arsenal of 680 carriers to about one half.
Why has the US completely given up its efforts to force Russia to enter negotiations about the reduction of strategic nuclear weapons when Russia has some 4,000 such weapons at its disposal. The ratio of weapons is 10:1 in favour of Russia. Against whom can Russia use these weapons? Only against its nearest neighbours. It’s no surprise that this seems to leave the current US administration cold. But the lax approach of European, especially central European NATO members is not a suitable response.
It’s too bad that the decision was not made in February.
“Rise up and lift your heads!” urged cardinal Tomášek 20 years ago. His call would be timely again today. If we are to be a reliable partner to the United States and other allies, it is essential that our political situation becomes more stable. Only that way can we prevent the Czech Republic from becoming another of Russia’s Trojan horses in NATO and the EU.
If the words of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, printed in the New York Times on 20 September, are something more than a last-minute effort to try and save face, maybe the Czech Republic still has a chance to join a missile defence project. And if Obama will not have the courage for such a project, maybe his successor will. But for something like this to happen, it is necessary to think strategically, not populistically – something that seems to be very difficult for Czech politicians.
Petr Suchý is head of the International Relations and European Studies department at the Social Sciences Faculty at the Masaryk University.