- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NEW YORK

Czech President Vaclav Klaus said Monday that he is seeking a sign from President Obama as to whether the U.S. will uphold its agreement to deploy missile defenses in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Mr. Klaus, an advocate for the deployment, told The Washington Times that he is eager to learn whether Mr. Obama will be as committed to the U.S. defense system as was President George W. Bush.

Mr. Obama is due to visit Prague after a summit of major industrial nations in London early next month.

“We’re looking forward to having him in Prague,” Mr. Klaus said. “I hope that will be a good opportunity to understand better his views.”

In New York for an environmental conference, Mr. Klaus said the Obama administration’s position on missile defense is “unknown.”

“I understand all presidents have their domestic priorities, and I understand the economic problems are more important to him now,” the Czech leader said.

The Obama administration appears much less enthusiastic than the Bush administration about deploying missile-defense components in Eastern Europe, a plan that Russia adamantly opposes.

Mr. Obama indicated in a recent letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that there would be less need to deploy the radar and guidance systems in former Soviet satellite states if Russia helped prevent Iran from developing new long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.

Mr. Klaus won over a reluctant parliament to support the deployment of the anti-missile effort, but polls suggest that the Czech public opposes joining the defense system.

Poland ‘s president warned on Sunday that any rethinking of the deployment would be received as a “not-friendly gesture.”

“A deal was signed, and I think that regardless of which administration is in power in the United States, agreements are going to be implemented,” Polish President Lech Kaczynski told a national television channel. “Missile defense is extremely important for Poland. … Not from the point of view of our security from so-called rogue states, but for other political reasons, it is very, very important.”

Russia contends that missile defense is aimed at its weapons, not against Iran, despite U.S. assurances to the contrary.

Mr. Klaus, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, said, “I know that it’s a difficult project. It has many, many difficult layers or dimensions which must be resolved,” including domestic opposition in his country as well as among some circles in the United States, ambivalence in Western Europe, and military and legal complications.

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