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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Annals of Cold War II; Czech Republic Accuses Russia of Blackmail

As Russia continues its concerted effort to alienate every country and Europe and prove conclusively that it is necessary to expand NATO to Russia's borders, Czech Republic has accused Russia of engaging in strategic blackmail. The Scotsman reports:

The Czech Republic said on Tuesday it would not be intimidated by Russia over plans to site parts of a U.S. missile defence system on its soil, and said attempts at "blackmail" by Moscow would backfire. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said threats by Russian officials over the plans, which would involve placing a radar system on Czech territory and a missile battery in Poland, would only make Czechs more determined to defend themselves. Russia's strategic forces commander, General Nikolai Solovtsov, said on Monday that Russia would be capable of firing missiles at the Czech Republic and Poland if the ex-communist states agreed to host the U.S. defence system. "The Czechs will now think the shield is even more necessary," Schwarzenberg told Reuters on the sidelines of a business conference in Warsaw. "We have quite an experience with Russians. You have to make clear to them you won't succumb to blackmail. Once you give in to blackmail, there's no going back. We have to be strong." The United States wants Poland and Czech Republic to host elements of its multi-billion dollar global system designed to counter missiles fired by what Washington calls "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea. Moscow views the system as an attempt to shift the post-Cold War balance of power, and relations between Moscow and Washington have soured since the announcement of the U.S. plans. Both the Polish and the Czech prime ministers have said their countries would likely say accept the installations, which would tie their interests to Washington in the long term and bolster their security. Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski told Polish radio on Tuesday the comments by Solovtsov were "an attempt to scare". Czech Prime Minister Topolanek summoned Russia's ambassador in Prague for "consultations" to take place later this week, a spokesman to Topolanek said.

Poland also expressed contempt for Russia's blatent attempt to undermine Eastern European security, as the Washington Post reports:

Russian opposition to a U.S. proposal to build a missile defense system in Poland stems from Moscow's hopes to regain influence over its former satellite, the prime minister said Tuesday. The comments by Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski came a day after a Russian general warned that Poland and the Czech Republic risk being targeted by Russian missiles if they agree to host U.S. missile defense bases. "To make it clear _ this is not about Russian security; these installations do not in any way threaten Russia," Kaczynski said on state Radio 1. "It's about the status of Poland, and Russian hopes that the zone, in other words Poland, will once again find itself ... in the Russian sphere of influence. From the moment the missile bases are installed here, the chances of that happening, for at least decades to come, very much declines," he said.

The Soviet Union dominated Poland for 45 years _ from the end of World War II until the end of the Cold War in 1989. Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of a "new Cold War" in a speech in Germany that shocked Western governments. Kaczynski and his Czech counterpart, Mirek Topolanek, indicated Monday they were ready to work out the conditions under which the U.S. would put interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic. But Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, head of the Russian missile forces, said in Moscow that the U.S. plan could upset strategic stability in the region. "If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic take such a step ... the (Russian) Strategic Missile Forces will be capable of targeting these facilities if a relevant decision is made" he said. Kaczynski dismissed Solovtsov's warning Tuesday as "an attempt to frighten" Poland. Also on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated the Kremlin's concern over the U.S. plans but said Moscow would not enter into a new arms race with Washington. "Russia will respond to emerging threats to its national security in a carefully weighed, adequate way, and won't allow anyone to draw it into a new confrontation, a new arms race," Lavrov said in a speech at a Moscow university. U.S. officials say that the 10 proposed interceptors _ designed to stop a launch from the Middle East _ are not aimed at Russia. Russia, with a large nuclear arsenal, could easily thwart such a small system simply by launching more than 10 missiles.

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