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Diplomacy in Action

Interview with Martin Rajec of Czech TV


Interview
Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
One-on-One at Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
November 6, 2009

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CZECH TV: The first question is very general. If you can tell me the differences in approach between your new administration and the old one as regards Central and Eastern Europe, if you see some.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I actually don’t think there’s an enormous difference from one administration to the next on the question of Central and Eastern Europe. The Bush administration was deeply engaged in Central and Eastern Europe and supportive of their roles in NATO and their bilateral relationship with the United States and their independence and sovereignty, and so is the Obama administration.

There are differences in foreign policy, but I frankly don’t think that the approach to Central and Eastern Europe is one of them.

CZECH TV: Is there a more specific vision right now as regards to a new missile defense system and a new role for the Czech Republic in it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well broadly in terms of the administration’s approach to Central and Eastern Europe we do have a specific vision which is to continue to consolidate their democracy, prosperity and partnership with the United States. Increasingly we see our partners in Central and Eastern Europe the way we see our partners in Western Europe, which is to say like-minded allies with which we cooperate in all sorts of global issues.

In terms of missile defense, we have now had the opportunity to explain our thinking on missile defense to all of our allies including the Czech Republic, and we think that they appreciate the merits of the new system.

In terms of specific cooperation with the Czech Republic, discussions are underway about how the Czech Republic might participate. They’ve made it clear that they’re interested in that. We’ve made it clear that we want that strategic cooperation to continue, and that this missile defense system will be embedded in NATO. And there will be opportunities for involvement by the Czech Republic.

CZECH TV: What would you answer to the open letter by former Czech President Václav Havel and some other East European leaders in which they criticize the U.S. and accusing the U.S. by pulling out from it position in recent steps?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We have great respect for President Havel and many of the other signatories of that letter who are our friends and with whom we have excellent contacts and are closely engaged.

I actually didn’t take the letter really as criticism. There were people expressing a view that they wanted to be sure that we understood their priorities, that we were engaged, that we would be consulting with them moving forward, that NATO and Article 5 are critically important, and we agree with all of that.

I think as we’ve had a chance to explain what we’re doing in Central and Eastern Europe, that people are coming to appreciate that we get it, we understand the priorities of the region, and we think that the new missile defense approach, far from abandoning these countries actually consolidates our partnership with them.

CZECH TV: Follow-up question, there is a fear in Czech society as regards the Russian influence, spreading Russian influence in middle Europe. And I am talking from economic point of view. The Russians are buying the shares in companies, taking over especially the energy sector. What is your reaction? What would you, are you watching it closely, what is your reaction?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, one of the consequences of an open market is that outsiders are able to invest and take part in your economies. That’s normally a good thing. And there’s no reason that Russian investments in Central Europe or in the Czech Republic should pose a problem. Obviously we have to watch these issues carefully. You don’t want to get to a point where you’re overly dependent on any particular country. But as a basic principle there’s nothing wrong with increasing investment and trade with Russia.

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