- The Washington Times - Friday, October 23, 2009

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic, like the Poles before them, will take part in the President Obama’s revised missile defense program based partially in the region, Prime Minister Jan Fischer announced Friday after a 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 Repubic 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 alleviated tensions caused when the Obama administration abruptly canceled a more extensive Bush-era program involving major installations in both Poland and the Czech Republic.

The initial announcement stunned both the 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 Vice President Biden to the region in part to try and resolve tensions caused by the bungled roll-out of the change in plans.

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

That proposal was somewhat more tricky 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 the Czech Republic 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.”

After the meeting, the vice president drove by motorcade to the Prague Castle, the largest urban castle in the world, the history of which dates 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 week-long tour of Central and Eastern Europe that included a visit to Warsaw and to the Romanian capital of Bucharest.

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