CND slammed today’s signing of a treaty agreeing a US Missile Defence radar base in the Czech Republic, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is visiting Prague to assent to. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament described it as “a step backwards for European security” and “part of a system that will raise tensions by introducing more missiles into Europe”.

However, inspite of the signing, the treaty still requires support of the Czech Parliament before the radar can be built. required. The governing coalition has 100 of the 200 seats, facing an opposition strongly opposed to the plan. The Czech Green Party, who are junior coalition partners, have said they would prefer to wait until after the US Presidential elections before deciding on the proposal, when the future of the whole Missile Defence system will be clearer.

Around 70% of the Czech public oppose the plans, with more than 100,000 signing a petition from the ‘Ne Zakladnam’ (No to Bases) group who are also holding a demonstration in Prague today. CND and Ne Zakladnam recently issued a joint appeal calling on the European Parliament to oppose the system . Polls also show that the majority of the UK public thinks that hosting such bases puts Europe at greater risk .

The radar station will be combined with interceptor missiles the US wants to base in Poland and input from two UK sites, the Menwith Hill communications base and radar at the RAF Fylingdales. The Polish Government recently rejected a deal negotiated with the US, claiming that as hosting the missiles would increase the threat they faced, they would expect the Pentagon to give a long-term commitment to upgrade Polish air defences. Upgrading anti-aircraft and short range anti-missile systems would be squarely aimed at countering Russia, despite US claims that it has no interest in doing so. It has been suggested that the US is looking to Lithuania or possibly the UK as reserve options.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “Hosting the US Missile Defence system is a backwards step for European security and is already destabilising the continent. It has sparked a Russian response that risks moving us all toward a new Cold War. This system will protect no-one, but will put Britain, and others involved, on the frontline in future US wars. It gives the US the ability to strike without fear of retaliation, so resulting in others enhancing their own systems in response. This is exactly why new arms control measures are desperately needed, rather than plans which will once again increase the number of missiles sited across Europe – and see them targeted again on Western Europe.”

She continued, “We hope that the Czech Parliament will listen to the overwhelming majority of their citizens and reject this destabilising scheme. The Polish Government shouldn’t just hold out for a better deal, but act in the genuine long-term interests of their security and reject the plan altogether. Both the diplomatic energies and the billions of dollars so far wasted on Missile Defence could have been put to much more effective use in conflict prevention and arms control.”