- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 24, 2009

PRAGUE | The Czech Republic, like the Poles before them, will take part in President Obama’s revised missile defense program based partially in the region, Prime Minister Jan Fischer announced Friday after meeting with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“I used this opportunity to express our readiness as a NATO member to participate in this new program,” Mr. Fischer said during a joint appearance here with Mr. Biden. “The Czech Republic is ready to take part in it.”

Though it is unclear exactly what role the Czech Republic will play in the new approach to missile defense, the agreement appears to have eased tensions caused when the Obama administration abruptly canceled a more extensive Bush-era program involving major installations in both Poland and the Czech Republic.

Mr. Obama’s abrupt about-face stunned both East European allies, who had been counting on the missile program to bolster the American presence on their territories and provide an added measure of security against the ever-looming presence of their Russian neighbors. The president dispatched Mr. Biden to the region this week in part to try and ease tensions caused by the bungled roll-out of the policy shift.

Mr. Biden’s visit this week appears to have accomplished that. In addition to repeatedly reassuring the NATO allies that the United States remained committed to their security, he delivered plans for a revised missile defense plan that would still call for a scaled-down American footprint in both countries when the missile shield is fully operational.

That proposal was more delicate for the Czech Republic, which had been slated to host a radar facility under the old plan that would no longer be needed under the Obama administration’s version. Neither Mr. Biden nor the Czechs provided any details about what role Prague would play.

“The Czech Republic stepped up and did their part in the previous missile defense plan, and today we discussed the potential role the Czech Republic could play in a new architecture, a better architecture - an architecture that has the capacity to actually protect Europe and is not just focused on the United States of America,” Mr. Biden said. “And I’m very appreciative of the prime minister’s statement to me that the Czech Republic is ready to be a part of that new architecture.”

U.S. defense experts will soon be in the region to discuss in detail the new plan, Mr. Biden said.

After the meeting, the vice president drove by motorcade to Prague Castle, the largest urban castle in the world with a history dating back to the 9th century. In an ornate, second-floor sitting room with gilded trim, he met with Czech President Vaclav Klaus.

It was Mr. Biden’s final stop on a weeklong tour of Central and Eastern Europe that included a visit to Warsaw and to the Romanian capital of Bucharest.