The Radar Base- Not Merely a Question of the Present
One of the most disputed questions of last year is the building of a US radar base in Czech Repulic. It is supposed to be a part of the system of anti- ballistic missile defense system, which would work mainly in connection to the missile base that should be built in Poland.
Several cities, including the capital, have seen demonstrations against the plan. The opposition arouses from both sentiment and reason. Speaking of sentiment, any foreign station in the Republic is out of the question for many. The reasoning is based on some kind of stance towards the US policies and the position of Czech Republic in the world today. The supporters base their argument on the need to strengthen the Czech- US ties. The opposition claims that is not necessary and warns of a new arms race. For both it is mostly a question of principle. For part of the Czech public it also a matter of sour memories it brings back to life.
My intention here is not to suggest my opinion on the question. What one may ask is why is it such a sensitive issue for the Czech public. The 1968 Russian invasion may be the answer. It was not the first time in the recent history that the country was invaded or otherwise subject to foreign power or brute force. It was different in several points.
It did not come from an enemy, it came from a supposedly friendly state, in fact the friendliest of all, our idol the Soviet Union. Not that much of a surprise since they did it before, in Hungary. But it was different. The Czech government did not want to leave the Warsaw Pact. They still did pledge their loyalty to the USSR and to socialism- and still the tanks came.
Secondly, the army did not come completely on its own. A part of the Czech Communist Party sent a letter to Kremlin, asking for a “fraternal help” against the contra- revolutionary elements within the party. Party of ruling party asked for the invasion. Part of the public agreed with it.
Thirdly, the army did not commit a widespread massacre and leave. People died, but there was no large- scale fight going on. The army stayed- for more than twenty years. Most people got somehow used to it, as to an unpleasant, embarrassing memento of this country’s lack of strength, or lack of options.
During the first days of the invasion, on the Wenceslas square some confused Russian soldiers (most of them were unaware of what they are going to and why) opened fire at the National Museum. The rumor is that they thought it was the Berlin Reichstag. The scars are still visible and were referred to as “the frescos by El Grechko” by some Czechs, a reference to current Soviet foreign minister’s surname.
A few months ago, an anti- Radar demonstration took place at the square. The sentiment may be abused by some of the organizers, but it is important to know that it is present. Any permanent presence of foreign troops in CR simply does have a sour taste, be it rational or not.