As Vice President Joe Biden completes his arm-twisting tour of Central and Eastern Europe, the Czechs have announced that they are ready to participate in America’s new missile defense plan, but only in the context of NATO. In the clearest sign yet of dissatisfaction with their second-class treatment by the new Administration, the caretaker Czech Government announced that Czech participation in the new missile defense architecture will no longer be on a bilateral basis.
It is clear that President Obama sent Biden to Central and Eastern Europe to paper over the most immediate cracks between the two. Warsaw and Prague’s most pressing concern is America’s apparent willingness to pay any price to ‘reset’ U.S.-Russian relations. The lack of prior consultation by the Obama Administration with Poland and the Czech Republic before abandoning the Third Site gave Warsaw and Prague every indication that their interests are merely moot in a great Washington-Moscow poker game.
As former Czech President Vaclav Havel said, Vice President Biden needed to demonstrate to Prague that the decision to abandon the Third Site was not a Russian-dictated one; that Biden needed to “make it clear that America is interested in us, that someone else has not pushed us out of America’s field of vision.” Russia’s annexation of a third of Georgia’s territory last year inevitably provoked fear among other former Soviet satellites about Russia’s expansionist tendencies and America’s willingness to come to their defense in a worst case scenario. And despite Joe Biden’s flying visit, Obama’s disastrous handling of the Third Site decision will continue to shape Central and Eastern European insecurity for some time to come.