Czechs won't host U.S. missile defense computers

PRAGUE Wed Jun 15, 2011 5:05pm EDT

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PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic will not host shared computers giving early warning of hostile missiles that is part of U.S. missile defense plans, Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra said Wednesday.

The Czechs had been asked to host a missile defense radar system under former President George W. Bush's plans, but the idea was shelved by President Barack Obama's administration in 2009.

The change of plans angered the Czech government which had invested considerable political capital in a project unpopular with the vast majority of the Czech population and in Russia, which saw it as a threat to its nuclear arsenal.

Discussions have taken part since then about a smaller role for the Czech Republic in a revamped U.S. missile defense plan, focused mainly on an early warning data center which would provide near real-time access to information on hostile missiles.

The Defense Ministry said the Czech role in the plan, consisting of two computers installed in Czech army premises, had become unnecessary after NATO decided in 2010 to have an information sharing system for all alliance members.

"In this context we thanked (them) for the previous ... offer and noted that in light of further developments it will not really be needed," Vondra said in a statement after meeting Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn.

"We will look for other options (as to) how the Czech Republic can join the alliance's system in the future."

Obama and Polish leaders reaffirmed plans during Obama's visit to Warsaw last month for Poland to host SM-3 interceptors from 2018 under the revamped U.S. program.

NATO has invited Russia to take part in the project, which is meant to shield Europe from short and medium-term ballistic missile attack from countries such as Iran.

Moscow is concerned that the plans may undermine its own large nuclear arsenal and wants a bigger say in the deployment.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka, editing by Tim Pearce)

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