Anti-militarist opponents cheer Czech PM’s ouster

When Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek resigned, opponents of the U.S. anti-missile radar base cheered. Topolanek’s right-wing government lost a March 24 parliamentary no confidence vote following his controversial comments about U.S.-style economic stimulus plans being “the road to hell.”

Many view the no confidence vote as a rebuttal of Topolanek’s handling of the economy, especially in his role as rotating president of the European Union. Nevertheless, anti-militarist activists around the world who opposed the U.S. radar base welcomed his ouster.

Topolanek had already pulled back on a vote on the planned U.S. radar treaty out of fear that the opposition Communists and Social Democrats would vote it down in parliament. Topolanek had been a strong supporter of a Bush administration plan to deploy a missile defense system in Europe that would essentially threaten Russia. The Czech Republic was to host U.S. missile defense radar as part of that plan.

U.S. troops would have to be stationed on Czech soil to operate the radar base. That point in particular has been a lightning rod for criticism.

Czech hostility to the radar runs deep. Polls show some two-thirds of Czechs have consistently opposed it since the plan was first introduced in 2006. Czech groups such as the No Bases Initiative played an active role in opposing the radar for more than two years.

U.S. groups such as the International Action Center and the Campaign for Peace and Democracy (CPD) have supported the Czech anti-radar movement. The CPD has opposed the radar base with public statements, open letters, demonstrations and hunger strikes.

The Bush plan intended to complement the Czech radar base with 10 missile interceptors in Poland. The planned missile defense system follows more than a decade of rapid expansion of the U.S.-dominated NATO military alliance into the former socialist bloc countries of Eastern Europe.

This major setback for the Pentagon’s radar plans does not mean that the radar base is completely off the table. It is possible that Topolanek and his Civic Democrats party could retake control in the future. Czech rules allow for the scheduling of early elections if three attempts to form a new majority coalition in the parliament fail.

It is possible that Topolanek could prevail at the polls in that event. But the former prime minister has an uphill battle. Many ordinary Czechs oppose his response to the economic crisis and his support of the radar base.

It has been difficult to get a clear read of the position of President Barack Obama’s administration on the plans to put these missile bases in Eastern Europe. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently sought to reassure the Polish government that the U.S. government would continue to press for NATO expansion in Poland. Clinton refused to state a clear position on the Obama administration’s missile defense plans.

NATO’s expansion and the planned missile defense system are part of Washington’s drive to isolate Russia and prevent Moscow from forming a rival economic or military bloc in Europe, even a capitalist bloc. NATO’s presence is also intended to support the pro-capitalist, rightist regimes, which are beginning to arouse working-class resentment at the loss of jobs and social benefits.

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