Tags: Russia | US | arms | deal | Czechs

Wary Czechs Debate U.S.-Russia Arms Deal

Tuesday, 06 Apr 2010 09:59 AM

PRAGUE — One year ago this week in front of the Gothic spires of Prague Castle, President Obama laid out his vision of a nuclear-weapons-free world and told thousands of cheering Czechs he would "put an end to Cold War thinking."

As Obama returns to Prague Castle on Thursday to sign a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, Czechs differ over whether his conciliatory dialogue with their former occupier is dangerously naïve or a laudable step toward global security.

Their sentiments are often linked to memories of the Soviet-inspired communist regime that crumbled in 1989.

A former anti-communist fighter and U.S. Army veteran, Milan Paumer, 78, worries that Obama will make concessions to ensure that Russia abides by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which requires each country to reduce its deployable nuclear warheads by 30% over seven years.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has been pushing for some kind of opt-out provision in case the United States develops its missile-defense strategy in Europe, which Russian officials see as a threat to their military security.

"With Russians you have to say, 'We are doing this. If you don't like it, too bad,' " said Paumer, who defied 24,000 East German and Soviet police during a 29-day escape from Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia to the West. He later lived for 40 years in Miami.

Czechs who lack communist-era battle scars don't necessarily take that view.

"I don't have a personal negative experience with Russia," said architect Vitezslav Petr, 27, praising Obama's "open hand" to Russia. "That is more important than prejudices based on the past."

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PRAGUE — One year ago this week in front of the Gothic spires of Prague Castle, President Obama laid out his vision of a nuclear-weapons-free world and told thousands of cheering Czechs he would "put an end to Cold War thinking."
Russia,US,arms,deal,Czechs
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2010-59-06
Tuesday, 06 Apr 2010 09:59 AM
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