Jan Macháček


Výsledky hledání

Czech Business Weekly

Radar, ČSSD disputes and Czech energy security

01. 09. 2008
Former Prime Minister Stanislav Gross (Social Democrat, ČSSD) said in an interview for daily Lidové noviny that negotiations about the U.S. radar base started in 2001, when Milos Zeman (ČSSD) was prime minister.

Diplomatic contacts and negotiations continued under all other ČSSD prime ministers—Vladimír Špidla, Gross and Jiří Paroubek. Gross said he supports having the U.S. radar base in the Czech Republic.

Lidové noviny’s Renata Kalenská asked Gross to speak mainly about his recent and sudden “entrepreneurial successes,” which much of the public consider bribes. On the other hand, it seems quite logical that Gross spoke this way.

It is a public secret that Social Democrats are thinking hard about how to turn their loud “no” into a silent “yes,” or a gradual toleration of the U.S. military installation. The ČSSD clearly overstated its populist “no” to the radar and will have to get out of this trap. The ČSSD approach is supposed to gradually change after the regional elections. They might have used Gross to send a trial balloon that will signal renewed discussion within the party.

Another “dissident view” from within the ČSSD was from Bohuslav Sobotka, who compared the current situation in Georgia to 1968 in Czechoslovakia and asked for acceptance of Georgia into NATO. The Civic Democrats (ODS) clearly connect radar and the Russian aggression against Georgia, even though the radar base is not supposed to see into Russia. It is logical that the ODS wants any U.S. military presence—radar or whatever else—because it will signal that we do not belong to the Russian sphere of influence. The Russian aggression in Georgia and new geopolitical realities will hopefully help the Social Democrats to at least tolerate the radar base.

It seems that a new Cold War is on the horizon and some Western media think that Ukraine, with almost half of its population being Russian, is a powder keg. The ČSSD’s anti-radar attitude seems no longer sustainable.
But there is one thing that no one pays attention to in this country. Even after Georgia, the Democrats in the U.S. Congress say that Congress will not finance the new missile defense systems until it is properly tested. What does “properly tested” mean? It must be tested in the U.S. because if it is tested here, it would already have to be financed.

As far as radar is concerned, there is one more important matter to be added. While asking Parliament to approve the radar, the government will have a chance to—while grilled by parliamentary deputies—once again disperse doubts about this installation. If Prime Minister Topolánek (ODS) constantly talks about Russia, is there a chance that this radar will be able to defend us not only against Iran and North Korea, but also against Russia, which is growing ever more aggressive? Russians have thousands of missiles and warheads. Is the U.S. installation able, in case of a threat, to do anything about that?

More trouble in the pipeline

While everything focuses on the radar base in this country, pipelines are becoming much more important. Therefore, the Czech government should add the topic of energy security —from our perspective read “pipelines”—to the list of priorities of our 2009 EU presidency. The difference between Russia today and the Russia of 30 years ago is that while 30 years ago an almost bankrupt Russia invested all its oil and gas revenues into acquiring new guns, tanks, missiles and warheads, these days Russia can use its resources and pipelines to serve as guns—instruments to expand its sphere of influence.

The Czech Republic does not have that much trouble with its oil dependency. At the beginning of 1990s, we invested into the Ingolstadt oil pipeline, which can use Western and Middle Eastern resources and can be used in case of emergency. But we have trouble with gas. There is a northern route that can send us Norwegian gas, but Norway will never agree to sell us all the natural gas we need. Therefore the Czech Republic—and also Poland, Hungary and Slovakia—should have these priorities:

1. to convince the European Union to invest into the Nabucco Pipeline, which would bring Caspian gas into Europe while avoiding Russia;

2. to help the EU to focus on negotiations with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan about exploiting their resources;

3. to convince Bulgaria not to get connected with Russians via the South Stream gas pipeline, which avoids Georgia and Turkey;

4. to convince Germany not to build a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea with Russians, whose primary goal is to avoid Poland and make it (and us also) directly dependent.

And last but not least, expanding Russia‘s sphere of influence is not and will not be done these days only through guns and pipelines. Now Russia will export its political culture and its way of doing business, with its ties between politics and businesses and with widespread corruption. If we tolerate things like powers interfering with judges and attorneys, suspicious public contracts and all kinds of syndromes of mafia capitalism, we will have a strong impact from Russia in this territory that could not be blocked even if we had hundreds of U.S. radar bases.

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