Cablegate: Codel Tauscher Dispels Myths On Missile Defense During


DE RUEHPG #1080/01 2621324
O 191324Z SEP 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: CODEL Tauscher delivered a clear and effective
message to Czech politicians and the public about Congressional
views on the planned U.S. missile defense (MD) radar. The visit
helped dispel a number of persistent myths by making clear that
there is bipartisan Congressional support for the Polish
interceptors as well as the Czech radar, that MD has strong support
among Democrats, and that NATO is seen as a critical element of any
future MD system. This message was well received by both government
supporters of MD and skeptics. End summary.

2. (U) CODEL Tauscher visited Prague September 14-15, the final stop
after Brussels and Warsaw on a trip devoted to missile defense. The
CODEL was led by Ellen Tauscher, Chairman of the HASC Strategic
Forces Subcommittee, and included subcommittee members Jim Cooper
and Michael Turner. Deputy Assistance Secretary of Defense for
Legislative Affairs Lisa Marie Cheney accompanied the CODEL, along
with HASC Deputy Staff Director Bob DeGrasse and HASC Professional
Staff Members Frank Rose and Kari Bingen Tytler. In Prague the
CODEL met with PM Mirek Topolanek, Deputy PM Sasha Vondra, Deputy FM
Tomas Pojar, Social Democratic (CSSD) Party Chairman Jiri Paroubek,
and several Members of Parliament including Jan Hamacek, Chairman of
the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Ondrej Liska, Chairman of the
European Affairs Committee. The CODEL gave a press conference and
also addressed the press with the Prime Minister and Deputy PM.


3. (SBU) Chairman Tauscher gave a consistent message in both private
meetings and public statements. The main themes were:
-- Bipartisan: missile defense has strong bipartisan support in the
Congress, and this includes the European (or "third") site in the
Czech Republic and Poland; all the leading contenders for President
in 2008 support MD, so there is no reason to delay progress on the
European site until after the election
-- Budget: the cuts to the administration's FY2008 funding request
for the European site are the direct result of increased
Congressional oversight of MD spending and should not be interpreted
as a Congressional effort to slow or kill the European site; since
negotiations will continue with both Poland and the Czech Republic
during much of FY2008, it was a prudent step to allocate funding to
other priorities; however, the Congress has made clear that once
agreements with the two countries are signed and ratified, the
Secretary of Defense can ask for funds to be reprogrammed

-- NATO: the European site should be "NATO-ized" as quickly as
possible and become one piece of a "system of systems" that provides
comprehensive coverage to all NATO allies from a range of existing
and emerging missile threats (put differently, the U.S. system in
the Czech Republic and Poland needs to be "bolted on" to the NATO
system of systems); NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer is
accelerating work towards this goal, but it is the responsibility of
all member states to work towards this goal, and notably to achieve
a strong result at the spring Bucharest Summit
-- Threat: our immediate effort needs to be protection of Europe's
southern flank from the existing threat of short- and medium-range
missiles from Iran; mobile systems provide the best defense; but at
the same time we need to move ahead quickly to prepare for defenses
against the emerging threat from medium- to long-range weapons
(i.e., the European site in the Czech Republic and Poland); we need
to work with all NATO partners, and particularly the French, to
convince skeptics that the threat is real, and ideally to declassify
threat information
-- Single system: the radar planned for the Czech Republic and the
fixed interceptors in Poland form a single system and are
-- Politics: in meetings with opposition politicians, Chairman
Tauscher urged them to not play politics with national security
issues and to pay attention to the threat; she repeatedly expressed
her readiness to work closely with the Czech government and
opposition figures to help win support for the MD initiative,
including during CSSD Chairman Paroubek's planned fall trip to the
United States. She directly asked for Paroubek's support for MD.


4. (SBU) Both Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and Deputy PM Sasha
Vondra expressed strong government support for MD. They highlighted
the divided domestic political scene, but both expressed certainty
that negotiations would reach a positive conclusion. They noted the
importance of the messages CODEL Tauscher brought to Prague in terms
of minimizing local opposition, and both arranged press conferences
after their meeting to showcase the CODEL's themes. Topolanek and
Vondra both stressed that the hosting of U.S. MD assets is in the
Czechs' national interest, and made reference to the unstable
geo-political situation (i.e., a resurgent Russia) to bolster their
case. While both stressed that they are not putting any conditions
on accepting the radar, they expressed their hope that the radar
would spur new high-tech investments, supporting a government focus
on increasing research and development; they asked for any support
in this direction that the Congress could provide.


5. (SBU) Deputy FM Tomas Pojar, the lead Czech negotiator on the MD
Agreement, echoed many of Topolanek's points. In terms of the
negotiations, he explained there are "many months of very hard work
ahead," especially on the SOFA Supplemental, but expressed
confidence that agreements will be reached. Expanding on government
thinking as to why the MD facility is important, Pojar offered three
reasons: first, as a continuation of the historical ties between
the U.S. and Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia (including support in the
founding of the country and liberation after WWII); second, because
of the reality of the emerging threat from the Middle East; third,
because of the geo-political situation, including Russian attempts
to exert influence in Central Europe. Expanding on the last point,
Pojar outlined his fear that if MD does not become a central focus
of NATO, the U.S. system will cover only North America, and this
could lead eventually to a splintering of NATO, raising the specter
of a U.S. withdrawal from the Alliance.


6. (SBU) CODEL Tauscher had separate meetings with CSSD Deputy Jan
Hamacek, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Green Deputy
Ondrej Liska, Chair of the European Affairs Committee. Both are
bright, young, first-time MPs who have been skeptics of the MD
project to date. Both traveled to Washington earlier this year and
returned to Prague concerned that the European project did not have
strong Democratic support. In separate meetings, CODEL Tauscher was
able to allay many of their concerns, specifically relating to
domestic U.S. politics. Both are very concerned about NATO, and
clearly appreciated the CODEL's strong and persuasive approach to
"NATOizing" MD, and the clear statement that the Czech and Polish
pieces of the European site are indivisible. Both expressed
interest in continuing to work closely with Members of Congress in
the months ahead.


7. (SBU) CODEL Tauscher's meeting with CSSD Chairman Jiri Paroubek
came just hours after the leaders of Social Democratic parties from
the Central European states issued a declaration in Prague stating
their opposition to the U.S. MD project. Chairman Tauscher and
other CODEL members noted their concern with this statement, which
did not reflect any awareness of the threat. Noting that her
message addresses many of the themes that Paroubek has previously
identified as important to him and his party, Tauscher encouraged
Paroubek not to play politics with national security matters and to
look closely at the threat. As he has in previous meetings with
American officials, Paroubek stated that he personally has no
opposition to MD, but that he cannot take a more positive stance
when over 80% of his party are opposed. He offered several openings
however: he told CODEL (and the press) that he is prepared to
change his position if convinced that the threat is not "virtual,"
he suggested that he could move the party in a different direction
if only 65% of the party were opposed, and he promised to abide by
any MD agreement that is ratified should he become prime minister in
the future. Paroubek also explained the domestic context for his
stance, notably the success he has had to date in reducing support
for the Communist Party, a process that could be reversed if he were
to take a more positive stance on MD. Paroubek said he hoped to see
Chairman Tauscher during his planned autumn visit to the United


8. (U) CODEL Tauscher received extensive press coverage in both
broadcast and print media; the reporting was factual and extremely
effective in advancing our public effort on MD. The CODEL's clear
statements punctured many myths (that the Congress opposes the
Polish interceptors, that Democrats oppose MD, that it is foolish to
conclude agreements in advance of the 2008 elections) and made clear
that NATO will be a centerpiece of U.S. engagement. The timing was
especially good in relation to the Central European Social
Democrats' declaration: Paroubek's comments after meeting with
CODEL Tauscher were much more moderate than we would have expected
after a major political meeting and tended to blunt the impact of
the political declaration. The visit made a strong contribution to
the Czech-U.S. effort to relaunch the public debate on MD.

© Scoop Media

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