Press Conferences

23. 4. 2007 12:37

Media Briefing after a State Security Council Meeting held on Monday 23 April 2007

Martin Schmarcz, Media Department Director: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome at this short briefing that follows a meeting of the State Security Council, which was attended by a special guest, General Henry Obering, the director of the US Missile Defense Agency. I want to thank Mr. Obering for coming to this briefing. Other people who will be present at the briefing will include Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and Minister of Defense Vlasta Parkanová, and I see that Mr. Graber, the US ambassador, is here as well. To start off, I want to ask Mr. Obering, who came to present the US missile defense system, to say a few words.

Henry Obering, Director of the US Missile Defense Agency: I want to begin by saying that today has been a very productive day for me. I have a very good feeling about the discussions I have had, especially the last SSC meeting. The presentation of the missile defense system was very thorough, and we had to answer a number of very detailed questions. I hope that today will mark the beginning of the path on which we have embarked, where we want to share as much as possible information and explain why we believe that the system is necessary, what are its capabilities, and in what way the system will complement the NATO missile defense system. In particular, I want to thank the president, the prime minister, and the Parliament for their hospitality during all the meetings and visits. I think that all these occasions involved a very productive exchange of information and ideas, but this is only the beginning. Naturally, I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Martin Schmarcz, Media Department Director: Thank you Mr. Obering. Now, I want to ask Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek to say a few words.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Good afternoon everyone and welcome to this press conference. I want to thank Richard Graber for arranging a visit of the man who is responsible for the US missile defense. General Obering has given a presentation that provided a very detailed description of individual technical, health-related, defense, security, military, and other aspects of the missile defense facilities that may be built in the Czech Republic and Poland. These facilities should basically complement the missile defense system that comprises radars in Great Britain and in Denmark, specifically in Iceland. During the discussion, we talked about some specific issues regarding missiles, their use, their trajectory, and their destruction and analyzed certain aspects of political discussions at the level of NATO and potential talks with the Russian Federation. Today, I have to say that nobody within NATO questions the fact that the Czech-American and Polish-American missile defense system will be used as part of alliance forces. NATO has completed an internal debate, and, as expected, it is beginning talks with the Russian Federation. NATO wants to incorporate missile defense into its upcoming materials. I must say that we have discussed some aspects of Russia's stance, which is relatively irrational because missile defense is not and cannot be – it is impossible from the technical viewpoint – used against the Russian Federation. The offers that have been made to the Russians – the possibility to make inspections at the radar base or to have personnel stationed there – have so far been refused by the Russian Federation. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that expert talks we plan initiate with Russia will result in eliminating the current opposition, and not only the USA and our European allies, but potentially also the Russian Federation will be protected by a similar missile defense system against long-range ballistic missiles as well as short- and medium-range missiles in a manner corresponding to what has been discussed with regard to missile defense. Thank you.

Martin Schmarcz, Media Department Director: Ladies and gentlemen, now you can ask your questions. Television Nova.

Kamil Houska, Television Nova: Mr. Prime Minister, could you describe your impression from the presentation?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I have, naturally, seen several similar presentations. This one was very thorough and systematic and included video recordings of various tests. There was a very detailed description of technical and all other related aspects. The few questions I had prepared for a subsequent discussion were answered during the presentation.

Kamil Houska, Television Nova: Can you be more specific?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I think that the main point of the presentation was actual coverage and the answer why it is impossible, for example, to strengthen the system that exists in Western Europe. The presentation showed in a very descriptive manner the reason – it is because such a course of action would not encompass the additional allied territory in Europe. The part of Europe that is not covered by the radars in Great Britain and Iceland would not be included in the coverage and would therefore be exposed. The placement of the facilities is therefore entirely logical and the installations cannot be anywhere else.

Journalist: I want to know whether the US government has provided the Czech government with any special guarantees and vice versa.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: You must surely be aware that two notes have been sent. One was sent by the Americans to the Czech government, and the other was sent as a reply to the American government, where some basic aspects were described. However, negotiations have not yet started. It means that no special guarantees have been given besides the fact that there are examples of similar facilities in Europe, the fact that there is the standard NATO SOFA agreement, the fact that our note clearly defines the limits of the upcoming negotiations from various points of view, including the legal status of the base from the viewpoint of the Czech law and the viewpoint of international law. No other guarantees have been given as of now, prior to the beginning of negotiations.

Martin Schmarcz, Media Department Director: Czech Television, go ahead.

Daniel Takáč, Czech Television: Good afternoon. I want to ask both Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. Obering whether these presentations, which have taken place, will also be organized for the public or for journalists and whether the Americans would be willing to organize such presentations?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Today, there were presentations in the Parliament and the State Security Council. All materials have been designated as "unclassified", which means that detailed presentations for the public will be prepared based on these documents, so that all the information provided to us will be made available to the public as well. We have no intention to withhold any information that we have received. Naturally, the documents will not be made public in English, and they will have to be adapted for the Czech audience. I think that we can organize a presentation for journalists, as a minimum to the same extent as the information that has been provided to us.

Henry Obering, Director of the US Missile Defense Agency: I want to add to this – and I have already said it – that my task is to share information, and as Mr. Prime Minister has said, we will continue to do so. We believe that this is a case where the more information the public has, the better people will understand the reasons why the system is being built and why it is so important for us to get started. We also hope that this information will demonstrate that the Russians have nothing to worry about and that we should pay more attention to collective security within the entire NATO.

Martin Schmarcz, Media Department Director: Ladies and gentlemen, any more questions? Go ahead.

Journalist: My question is for Mr. Obering. Why was today's State Security Council meeting closed? Was it at your request or at the council's request?

Henry Obering, Director of the US Missile Defense Agency: Basically, I did not request a meeting behind closed doors, but I admit that during the presentation we showed very detailed simulations that accurately depict the system's capabilities, and we do not want to disclose this information to the public. I would certainly be able and willing to share this information with the media and provide the simulations in a digital format.

Martin Schmarcz, Media Department Director: I would like to comment on that. These are questions that you will have to ask the Parliament and not General Obering. Another question please.

Journalist: Can the Czech Republic give an answer by the end of the year?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: An answer to who? We have already answered the Americans to their note. You are asking when a potential agreement, presidential or another, could be ratified or approved by the Parliament and signed by the Czech president. I would say that this could happen sometime at the beginning of next year. Nonetheless, no date has been fixed for the negotiations, although we expect that negotiating will mainly take place during this year and that the relevant materials will be prepared by the end of the year. However, there is no fixed date at the present time.

Martin Schmarcz, Media Department Director: We have time for the last question. Are there are any more questions? No. Thank you for your attention.

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