Taken for a Ride?

/ February 11, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Milan Vodicka, a Czech journalist, is using the platform of The Wall Street Journal's op-ed page today to warn the United States against turning its back against his country on missile defense, after so much political capital was spent getting the agreement to base an X-band radar there.

If the United States builds a radar system in the Czech Republic as part of the missile defense program developed by the Bush administration, it's likely that the Russians will target the Czech Republic with their tactical nuclear missiles. But many Czechs are fearful of an even greater danger than Russia: The possibility that the U.S. may decide not to deploy the defense system. Unfortunately, Vice President Joseph Biden suggested this prospect last week in Munich when he said, "We will wait for what the experts say and then we will see."

Czech politicians and their Polish counterparts have invested a lot of political capital in the missile defense project. If the Obama administration doesn't follow through, supporters of the missile shield would feel abandoned by the U.S.

What's worse, Czech and Polish leaders would lose credibility among their opponents and, most importantly, Russia. Moscow would see the failure to build the radar system as proof of its influence over Central Europe, and as recognition of its veto power over European security policy.Mr. Biden doesn't seem to appreciate that the missile defense project isn't just about American interests. It's about the Czechs and the Poles, too.

But the juiciest line comes later:

It's beginning to look as though the Americans were taking us for a ride. Now that there's a new driver in the White House, they think they can just drop us off at the curb.

Last week, we reported on a presentation by Stanford academic Dean Wilkening, who argues that Bush-era plans to station ballistic missile defense assets in Poland and the Czech Republic offer European nations less protection from Iranian missiles than defense officials have claimed publicly. Inside Missile Defense was able to interview Wilkening yesterday, and today's issue features an updated version of the story.

-- John Liang

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