The United States and the Czech Republic have agreed in principle to a treaty that will install a radar tracking component of an American missile defense system on Czech territory. The Russians, as anyone could predict, have been bellicose in response, even threateningly so in this BBC version. As usual, Condoleezza Rice says that Russia has nothing to worry about; the proposed system is meant to shoot down missiles from Iran. As a Russian might note, that doesn't mean that it can't or won't be used against Russia. To which an American might respond: why exactly would Russia be firing missiles at the Czechs or points west? Obviously the Russians (i.e. Putin and his pals) are unhappy at a development that could limit their freedom of action should they want to intimidate Eastern Europe for any reason. They may be paranoid or dumb enough to think the system has some offensive capability, but let's not kid ourselves about Russian intentions. It's also disingenuous of Secretary Rice to pretend that shooting down Russian missiles isn't a possibility. It borders on lying when she says the plan is only meant to stop terrorist missiles. Those missiles have to be there, in part, to prevent the consolidation of a Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. Naturally, Russians resent the idea, because the power that denies other nations their spheres of influence is really claiming the whole world as its own sphere.
The treaty doesn't seem to be particularly popular with the Czech parliament or the Czech people. It apparently isn't too popular with neighboring countries, if Slovakia represents the rest. On the other hand, the Polish government is hoping for a similar deal, but explicitly wants protection from Russia, not terrorists. It seems like most Czechs are less afraid of either Russia or terrorists than their leaders are -- though some Americans might think the Czechs are actually more afraid, as far as Russia is concerned. The treaty may fail in the Czech parliament. If so, that will set up a major test of democracy in the former Warsaw Pact territory. The proof of democracy will be whether the Czechs can keep the missile defense out if they want it out.