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27. 2. 2008 12:42

Speech of the Prime Minister given at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. 27. 2. 2008


„Why Security Challenges in Central Europe Still Matter?”

Allow me to add a subtitle to the headline of my presentation : „Why Security Challenges in Central Europe Still Matter? – Is Cold Was Relaoded? Ipurposely chose rather a provocative subtitle for my talk. You may have read a similar kind of titles in the Czech newspapers, but without the question mark. Why? The current security policy debate in the Czech Republic is marked by the discussion on the stationing of the American missile defense premises in Central Europe and its geopolitical and strategic consequences. The content of my presentation here today, as you may have already guessed, is going to be in contrast with the title. I would like to show you that such kind of headlines are nothing more than the good work of Russian PR experts who know that journalists will be happy to catch any sharp slogan.

Anti-Missile Defense System is not SDI

The basic reason why anti-missile system does not mean the return of the Cold War is that this system is a response to a new security challenge after an era of rivalry between two blocs. It addresses another threat, differently defined and where the enemies are more hidden. You cannot have a Cold War if the antagonist of the Cold War is missing. That thinking has a logical mistake, it is a case of “contradictio in adiecto“, a contradiction. „Nomen omen“, (self-fulfilling prophecy) in this case is hundred percent true for the anti-missile defense. The system from the time of the Cold War was named SDI – Strategic Defense Initiative. The missing word "strategic" clearly suggests that both the aim and the philosophy of the anti-missile defense have been revised. Today's anti-missile umbrella has very little in common with the ambitious Star Wars project President Reagan embraced. Except that it also excites violent criticism. Both here in the United States and in Europe, where its effectiveness is especially challenged. The European and Russian politicians accuse it - unjustly, I believe - of calling upon the spirit of the Cold War. There is a significant difference between the criticism of twenty years ago and that of today. The Soviet Union and its European satellites protested against SDI right from the very beginning. The Soviets knew well that this technologically demanding and expensive project represented a threat of strategic significance. Concerning the anti-missile defense, Moscow was keeping silent as long as the system's elements were being installed on US territory, or in Western Europe. It was only when the radar site in the Czech Republic, and the interceptors in Poland, started to be considered that the propagandistic machinery began firing rounds. This makes it clear that it is purely purpose-oriented criticism. Further evidenced by the fact that Russia itself is building similar systems.
The criticism is not addressed so much to the Government of the United States, as toward swaying public opinion in European countries. Therefore the strong media rhetoric. Therefore too, the entire range of activities funded by Russia which focus on playing on the emotions of citizens. The aim is to bring about fear. Fear that because of the anti-missile system the Czech Republic and Poland will become targets of terrorists. Fear of Russian revenge. Fear of the power whims of the US. It needs to be admitted that this cocktail, mixed from appeasement, pacifism and anti-Americanism, is working. And it is hard to face down because media in the free world is a tool of criticism, not of explanations. These are, however, purely political problems and it is upon us to be able to deal with them. I would like to focus on the wider safety discourse, which is outside the scope of the anti-missile defense - the physical and philosophical confines.

Hard Force, Soft Force

No matter how many questions the anti-missile umbrella may justly inspire, we must not forget that this is only a means by which to reach a goal, not the goal itself. And that there surely must be another way leading to the same goal. As a politician responsible for the contingent installation of the anti-missile shield on the territory of the Czech Republic, I carefully follow the debate which is being carried out in the United States. Points of view like functionality, effectiveness concerning the elimination of potential threats, cost and integration into NATO structures, all of these will be vital in the decision-making process of the Czech Government and the Parliament. I do not, however, want to talk about this today. As I have said, the anti-missile defense is only a means, a part of the security policy, not the security policy itself. It is, however, a highly advanced technology, and modern technologies do somehow influence and change our behavior and actions.

The security policy naturally changed after the end of the Cold War. Instead of two more or less equal and clearly defined blocs, we are now facing asymmetric, more-dimensional threats which have been caused by sub-state or trans-national players. Even during the Cold War it was understood that victory cannot be brought about solely by military means. And although the Soviet bloc was "arms-raced up" in the end and defeated, especially thanks to SDI, democracy could come about only because of the existence of dissident structures who were ready to take over the power and launch the transformation of the totalitarian system. The support of the West of democratic opposition and its enforcement of the Helsinki process were significant for speeding up the internal erosion of the system and for the ability to build democratic institutions preventing the return of totalitarianism. Of course, everything was easier because even after forty years of communism the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have never ceased to belong to the Western civilization and thus they had something to return to and to build upon.
Today the situation is different. The significance of non-military, soft force needed for the victory of liberal democracy, and especially for its maintenance, has not decreased. But the way to apply it is more complicated. The disadvantage is that democratic institutions usually do not have a tradition in the countries where the terrorist threats originate. The advantage, on the other hand, is that unlike the countries of the Soviet bloc, which were tightly closed against any institutional influence from outside, these cases are different. Thus we have a chance to participate in the building of democratic and civic institutions. And in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan we even have the responsibility for their foundation and operation. If anything is failing, it is not military operations. But the ability to build democratic institutions and working civic administration, to introduce the rule of law and order, and to ensure citizens' safety. It is a long and difficult process, but we must go through it. Otherwise our military victories will turn against us.

I follow the debate on foreign policy within the American Presidential race. And I dare say that the reflections on a balanced use of hard power (military force, coercion) and soft power (civil force, persuasion) fully reflect the change in the security and strategic environment.
We understand the anti-missile umbrella to be a part of greater politics which is far from being purely military. This is yet another denial of the cold-war mentality, which practically excluded any civil cooperation.

New Threats, Old Questions

Threats which we have to face in the era after the Cold War are different. But the questions, which we must answer in order to efficiently eliminate them, remain the same. First, we must correctly designate the threats. Second, we must be able to analyze them. Third, we must be determined to achieve victory. Forth, we must be persistent to maintain the new status quo. The terrorism itself is nothing new. But it gains completely new dimensions in the world after the Cold War when the iron bands of the bloc system fell apart. It is no longer an isolated phenomenon, whether in space or time. It is turning into a permanent global campaign. Owing to modern communication means. Contrary to ideologically motivated terrorism of the Cold War, the identity of today's terrorism is formed by the extreme and violent jihadism. It is much more malign, especially because it does not fear self-destruction and is thus irrational and unpredictable. It is also more persistent and determined than the communism because it draws force directly from cultural roots.
Global terrorism has no central authority, it does not need great military forces, massive employment of machinery and complicated logistics, it is mobile, strictly decentralized and highly conspiracy-motivated.
Terrorists do not have their own state, although some countries do support terrorism, and therefore they must count with revenge. Terrorism utilizes ethnical, tribal and sectarian conflicts and points of frictions at the encounter of civilizations. This gives it new recruits and at the same time provides it with a base and ideal cover.

The security issue is further complicated by a rise on new powers whose regimes are as hostile and unpredictable as the terrorists; and the fact that they are going to behave pragmatically, like Soviet Moscow used to, cannot be relied on. On the other hand, many states are falling apart and get divided according to ethnical and religious differences, which creates another hotbeds for terrorism.

Based upon this brief designation of the threat, I can see the differences between the present time and the Cold War: There is no deterrent force which would keep the terrorists tamed. On the contrary. During the Cold War, the West eliminated Soviet dominance in conventional arms by a more powerful strike arsenal. Today the situation is reversed. The terrorists can negate our military dominance by threatening to employ arms of mass destruction against civilians. There is no clearly divided time of peace and time of war. Borders between them get blurred, tension is permanent and violence can break out any time; and the nature of military operations must reflect this. It puts new demands on strategic planning, on reforming armed forces and on employment of army units.

There is no solution in solely defeating the opponent. The arising conflicts are usually long-term, peace is difficult to achieve and fights are easy to start over. And even in cases where an effective military victory is possible, it is only the beginning of a journey which does not end with a defeated country but with a working democratic society.

It is clear that the significance of the interconnectedness of military, civic and economic forces does not diminish, but rises. It is also necessary to carefully consider the employment of forces and the division of risks, not to get exhausted in non-effective operations and not to uselessly create new threats. Allied relationships, which not only assist with military operations but more importantly, widen the potential of the "soft force", gain a special meaning.
The threats of the 21st century are different from those during the Cold War. One of them is an attack by individual ballistic missiles launched from the territory of one of those unpredictable regimes or by one of those sub-state players. The anti-missile umbrella in its present form does not change the strategic balance of forces but it is a response to one particular threat. A response which comes after the designation and analysis of the risk and is an expression of our determination to face it. I would like to stress again that we do not consider the anti-missile system to be the final response, not even from the military point of view, let alone from the civil one.

Anti-Missile Defense and Central Europe

The Czech Republic is aware that new threats require new approaches to prevent them. Therefore we positively reacted to the offer of placing anti-missile defense elements on the Czech territory. We have four main reasons to enter the negotiations about the system:
First, we see it as a manifestation of confidence in the Czech Republic which has proved to be a competent ally, including joint missions. And which is able to undertake new tasks for the joint defense.
Second, we see it as a manifestation of our will to honor these commitments, today and anytime in the future. As a payment of our debt which incurred when we were accepted to NATO. We want to be a country which not only uses the defense of others, but which actively partakes on the defense of the Euro-Atlantic area. The complex anti-missile defense system will also provide protection for advance American troops and allies.
Third, there is a geo-strategic aspect. If there are two defense section created within NATO, a section with a defense system and a section without it, the alliance would then become diffused and its unity broken. There would be first-class countries and second-class countries as far as security is concerned. If the anti-missile defense elements are not built in Poland and the Czech Republic and the United States goes on without us, we would perceive it as a risk. Therefore we strive that there is a comprehensive united anti-ballistic missile defense system within NATO.

Last but not least, the anti-missile defense has a geopolitical significance. Central Europe has always been an object of struggle of world powers, many conflicts have arisen here in the past which also affected other countries. Including the WW II. Russia, which is re-finding its power ambitions, dislikes its having vacated this region. The failure of the anti-missile defense project would undoubtedly strengthen the pressure which Russia exerts upon the region and would move us closer to the sphere of Russian influence. I shall dwell more in detail on the specific relationship between the anti-missile defense and security challenges in Central Europe. As I have said, in the course of past centuries this region has been vital for world security. And remains so. Whenever there was a power vacuum in Central Europe, the world powers had a tendency to fill it, which led to many wars. And on the contrary, the stability of the region contributed to the security of entire Europe. Now Central Europe is a part of the zone of stability and security, NATO. Any casting of doubts, any weakening of the role of Central European countries as full-right members of the Alliance, uselessly creates new risks and threats.
The anti-missile defense project is a confirmation of the region’s security position and thus contributes to world stability. I point out that I do not specifically mean the anti-missile umbrella now. If it does not exist and other defense systems are built instead, we would also like to be a part of them, together with Western Europe.

Whether to station the anti-missile defense elements or not on our soil, that must be our sovereign decision, made while concerning our own security interests and commitments to our allies. Of course, we need to maintain a dialog with Russia, and we do so, like the US Government. But we cannot let the anti-missile defense system be partially decided in Moscow. That would mean the return of cold-war mentality, of rivalry of two powers, of principle of revenge and deterrence. The anti-missile defense does react to particular security threats. For us, however, the primary focus is the anchoring of values of Central European region within the Euro-Atlantic area. The "one for all, all for one" principle, which was the basis of the Washington Treaty, has far more significant meaning that the military one. The Alliance has been more than the community of defense since its beginning. It has been a safeguard of common values. It does not "only" represent the most powerful military force in the world. That is not the goal, but a means for the defense of liberal democracy. Alliance's "hard" military force always served to one goal: the defense of the "soft" force of civic society. We do not underestimate the potential threat of an attack by ballistic missiles. But the basic significance for us at the negotiations about the anti-missile system is the non-military scope. It is a political decision expressing an allegiance to civilization and a unified will to defend ourselves.

Central Europe, Europe and NATO need this unity. The threat of a terrorist attack by arms of mass destruction is significant, however, it is only a part of the issue. Which is also suggested by an increased activity of intelligence agencies in the region. In the future we will need to proceed together in a unified manner not only at preventing terrorist threats, but also at enforcing energy security, solving migration issues, strengthening democracy in the world and providing foreign aid, addressing issues of world trade and closer economic cooperation. One of the benefits which we hope the anti-missile defense would bring, is the transfer of top technologies, and scientific, research and industrial cooperation. In short, the development of the soft civil environment which the anti-missile umbrella should protect. And the circle closes: the anti-missile system is not only a result of the will to maintain a united Euro-Atlantic area but at the same time it brings more reasons why this unity has sense.

I could summarize my opinion on the relationship between Central Europe and the anti-missile defense into one sentence: The question is not why the elements of anti-missile defense should be installed here, but why they should not be. Why not, if the system is functional and works well in other NATO countries?
And this brings me to the end and to the final answer to the question: Does the anti-missile defense system mean a return of the Cold War? I can briefly recapitulate the reasons why I believe that it does not:
- The antagonist from the Cold War is missing. The system is a response to new threats.
- The anti-missile umbrella is a part of a wider, not only military, politics and its final goal is not competition but cooperation and aid to countries where terrorists have their bases.
- The anti-missile system is of a predominantly defensive nature, it does not change the strategic balance of the forces but responds to one particular threat.
- The elements of the anti-missile defense in Central Europe are an expression of overcoming the cold-war mentality. Failure of this project, however, would encourage revisionist efforts and de facto drop a new iron curtain, this time across the NATO countries.

With your permission, I would end my talk with a question mark: Why does an anti-missile defense system in Central Europe stir up such passionate responses while there are large American bases including anti-missile defense elements and employing thousands of soldiers, functioning with no problems in the rest of the continent? Why does the criticism always vary from military and technical parameters and possibilities of the system? Is this not the best proof that we are on the right track?

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