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April 9, 2009

Obama's Prague spring

By Spear's

His speech is the opening gambit in a strategy far removed from the naïve idealism often attributed to him.

Pres. Obama’s stirring speech in Prague is not all it seems. Though the intrinsically idealistic Bohemian crowd was inevitably roused to great romantic emotion at his promise for America to lead by example in nuclear disarmament, the speech was part of “a tedious argument of insidious intent,” to quote T.S. Eliot.

It is the opening gambit in a shrewd global strategy quite far removed from the naïve idealism often attributed to Obama.

Despite the promise of nuclear disarmament, the US continues ahead with its plans for a nuclear shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, much to the consternation of the Russians, who blame those plans for the recent foray into the Caribbean of their nuclear warships and their alleged plans to build military bases in Venezuela and Cuba.

What Obama is really after is a dual carrot-and-stick motivation to get Russia to help stem Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which he says is one of the main justifications for the missile defence shield, in the most ambitious show-me-yours-and-I’ll-show-you-mine games of political chicken of this young administration.

The missile defence shield has carried with it a high political price, costing not just relations with Russia, but the Czechs their government: the collapse of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek’s government under a parliamentary no confidence vote halfway through the Czech presidency of the EU was undoubtedly accelerated by the Topolanek’s going against popular Czech opinion to acquiesce to the US defence shield.

Now Obama, in his speech in Prague, is proffering his conditions for backpedalling on that costly commitment.

Where this leaves the now-ungoverned Czechs remains to be seen, as Czech President Vaclav Klaus can take months to appoint a new prime minister who can garner a majority in Parliament.

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In the meantime, the EU is led by a political zombie at a moment in history when it needs all the power and consensus it can muster to tackle the global economic crisis, rising terrorism and recalcitrant Iran and North Korea – not to mention dozens of other concerns.

This leaves a strong Obama to wrestle directly with the Russians over their military and economic support of new and old allies, where the boundaries on the map become so many squares in their private chess game with nuclear weaponry instead of mounted knights.

Sound familiar? Now who said the 80s revival was over?

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