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Missile defense suffers setbacks

Czech government delays treaty vote as Iran tests a missile.

The Bush administration scoffed at Russia's security concerns related to missile defense in Europe but U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that the Obama administration was still undecided about its missile defense plans, according to the Associated Press.

Postol said the system may be harmless today, but that could change over time.

"It does create a strong sense that the U.S. is putting its foot in the door to build something much more substantial that could spot Russian ICBMs launched from the west of the Urals (mountain range)," he said, using the abbreviation for intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Back in Prague, Foreign Minister Jan Kohout was quoted in Wednesday's Lidove noviny — one of the country's leading newspapers — saying, "The radar will not be on the agenda of this government. Only the next government, to be formed on the basis of parliamentary elections, will deal with missile defense."

The government of Prime Minister Jan Fischer will lead the country to early elections in October. The previous right-of-center government collapsed in a vote of no-confidence two months ago. The winner of the autumn election will then attempt to form a new governing coalition, which could take several weeks, or months, depending on the election results.

A pair of bilateral treaties between the United States and the Czech Republic has been signed and passed by the Czech Senate. But the treaties won't become binding unless they are also ratified by the lower chamber of parliament. The previous government withdrew the treaties from the parliamentary agenda in March, fearing they would be defeated.

When, or if, the treaties ever come to a vote in parliament will likely depend on the election results in October. The right-wing Civic Democratic Party — which led the last government — was the only party fully supporting the U.S. radar plan. Its junior coalition partners were divided over the issue and the opposition was united in opposing it.

The Czech Social Democratic Party, which has been unequivocal in its opposition to U.S. missile defense plans, currently leads in public opinion polls by as much as 8 percent.

But the future of missile defense in Europe will likely be decided in Washington, where the Obama administration is re-evaluating the security threats posed to America and its allies, according to Victoria Samson, Washington director of the Secure World Foundation, which focuses on the use of outer space.

"There is more of an acknowledgment of where the actual ballistic missile threats are," she said. "(The Bush administration was) focused very heavily on the Hail Mary pass — a sort of 1 in a million chance of an ICBM launch against the United States."

"That's what the (ground-based defense) system was really designed for," she continued. "But when you look at countries that have ballistic missiles, many of them have short- and medium-range missiles. And often times those are in theater where U.S. forces are."

More on missile defense:

No clear path forward for missile defense

All eyes on North Korea, for good reason

U.S. and Russia turn a corner