10 May 2007: for immediate release
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament noted with concern today’s initial round of talks between Robert G. Loftis of the U.S. State Department and members of the Czech Defence and Foreign Affairs ministries with a view to positioning an American radar station, for the US national missile defence programme, in the Brdy military district, southwest of Prague.
The two-day talks will focus on the legal status of the proposed base and the level of its personnel, to be followed up with a second round of talks from May 22nd to discuss construction, operation, maintenance and security arrangements. President Bush will then visit Prague on June 4th and 5th to further discuss the tracking radar. The Czech parliament is yet to agree the plans.
Many believe that such a system, including interceptor missiles placed in Poland, could spark a new Cold War-style arms race and divide the continent. Last weekend a conference of 150 activists representing 14 organisations (including CND) from 9 European countries met in Prague. The conference issued a declaration stating:
“The realisation of the US plan will not lead to enhanced security. On the contrary – it will lead to new dangers and insecurities. Although it is described as ‘defensive’, in reality it will allow the United States to attack other countries without fear of retaliation. It will also put ‘host’ countries on the front line in future US wars.”
The majorities of the public in both the Czech Republic and Poland oppose the plans and parliamentary opinion is evenly divided in the lower house of the Czech parliament, which saw a stormy debate on the US negotiations earlier today. The latest poll, published in late April showed 68% opposition to the plans in the Czech Republic, with 77% wishing there to be a referendum on the issue. A recent poll showed 67% of the British public oppose any involvement in the missile defence programme
Support for the project in the US congress is also weakening, with Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat who sits on the House Armed Services Committee quoted today saying the committee would approve “only prudent investments” in what she labelled “high-risk, immature programs” to shoot down long-range missiles. Last week a congressional subcommittee voted to cut funding to the European part of the system by more than half.
Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, commented: “We believe that any involvement in the US plans will lead to a new global arms race, creating a future of global insecurity and conflict. The Missile Defence system will provide the US with first-strike capabilities against any state in the world, without fear of retaliation. The locating of radar stations and interceptor missiles in Europe put the citizens of host countries at risk of attack.”
Notes to Editors:
1. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere.
2. For further information and interviews please contact Ben Soffa, CND’s Press & Communications Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859