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The U.S. announcement that it would scrap plans for missile defense bases in the Czech Republic and Poland was met with a sigh of relief here in the Czech Republic. From the day the plan was first announced in January 2007, opposition has been strong and steady. Czechs consistently opposed the plan by a 2-1 margin.
The Bush administration said the bases were needed to protect Europe and the United States from a threat that currently does not exist — a nuclear-armed Iran, with long-range missile capabilities. But Czechs saw no threat from Iran, and felt skittish about making themselves a target for Russia. The Kremlin strenuously opposed the missile bases so close to its border, and threatened to point medium-range missiles at the Czech Republic and Poland if the deployment of interceptors and the radar went ahead.
Right-wing politicians, who backed the plan, argued that the base would enhance the country's security by forging closer ties with the world's greatest military power — the United States. While the plan was signed by the government, it was never ratified by the lower house of parliament — the primary body in the bi-cameral legislature. Indeed, when the treaty was due to come for a vote in parliament in the spring, the government pulled it from the agenda, fearing it would be defeated.