US shield: mixed reactions
The leaders of the largest European countries have hailed the decision made by the Obama administration. However, reactions in Eastern Europe were mixed.
German chancellor Angela Merkel called the US move a positive signal to help overcome difficulties in relations with Russia. She made this note on Friday upon her arrival in Brussels, where the EU leaders have gathered ahead of the G20 summit in Pittsburg in the US.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also said that he strongly supported the US move, which would promote progress in the nonproliferation issue in the near future:
“I strongly support the decision that has been made by President Obama today. I think it shows that there is more trust developing between the nuclear power nations. And nonproliferation remains a very high priority for the United Kingdom.”
His French counterpart, President Nicolas Sarkozy, called the decision of US President Barack Obama “extremely wise.”
After finding out that the US will scrap its plans to site a radar base in the country, the mood among the majority of the population in the Czech Republic is one of relief and happiness.
The radar was supposed to be located around three hours drive south-west of the capital city Prague, and there has always been fierce resistance in the Czech Republic to these proposals, with some 70% of the country’s population against the move.
Activists in the Czech Republic have been fighting long and hard to ensure their voices are heard.
“Barack Obama realized that this really was a step in the wrong direction,” Jan Tamas of the Non-Violence movement told RT. “It was not improving the security situation in Europe or in the world, and it was actually bringing us closer to a potential conflict or, perhaps, even a Third World War.”
“I also think he realized that it was very much damaging to relations with Russia, and that it was counterproductive for US interests as well.” he added. “This is a really big victory for the Czech people.”
The officials in Prague say they are confident about their country’s security. According to the Foreign Minister Jan Kohout, his country gets all the safety that it needs from being a NATO member.
While the news was welcomed in the Czech Republic, there is a feeling of discontent towards the government among some of the population. They feel that the Czech government has largely ignored their calls, and that it was the US – and not their own government – that ultimately made the decision.
The reaction is very different in Poland – another planned location for the interceptor part of the AMD shield – for the majority of its population was in favor of the proposals. People here viewed the proposals as a form of support from the US, making them a privileged ally of America.At the same time, the reaction from the Polish officials was rather moderate. Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he respected the decision made by the United States:
“It’s a decision of the government of the United States. The main thing here is the safety of our country – and this is what I was discussing with the US president.”
“In the nearest future, there is a chance to enhance cooperation between the USA and Poland in the area of defense,” he added, as quoted by ITAR-TASS.
The clarification came from the country’s Defense Minister Rados?aw Sikorski, who says that the United States is now planning to station its Patriot missiles, ITAR-TASS reports.
As for the local inhabitants of the small town of Redzikowo – where the US interceptors were initially planned to be stationed – expressed on Friday their gladness with the fact that military objects were no longer going to be installed near their homes.
“I am perhaps the happiest man in Poland now,” says Mariusz Chmiel, the mayor of S?upsk – the city adjacent to Redzikowo.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Ušackas showed no enthusiasm about the shift in US missile defense plans, and Defense Minister Rasa Juknevi?ien? has said she was “saddened” by it.
“It is not the best political news,” Ušackas told the BNS news agency on Friday.
The minister declined, however, to comment further, adding that he would like to receive a more detailed explanation from Washington, Interfax reports.
Rasa Juknevi?ien? explained that Lithuania strongly supported the project because it would have helped enhance the country’s security.
“This region cannot be an exception among other NATO regions, and the issue of its defense is as important as it is in other regions. But, at least, according to external information and what we see in the public space, Russia was the staunchest opponent of this project,” she said.
“Naturally, people tend to come to the conclusion that it is linked to Russia," Juknevi?ien? added.
The United States announced Thursday its decision to alter its AMD program in Eastern Europe, having shelved the idea of stationary systems in favor of an improved sea-based network, which would be effective against Iranian short- and middle-range missiles.