As the range of Iran’s liquid-fueled missiles approaches 2000 km, they pose a growing threat. While both in-range American military bases and Israel have their own counter-missile shields, Central and Eastern Europe are completely vulnerable to Iran’s missiles.
The U.S. has proposed placing a battery of up to ten rockets in the Czech Republic to shoot down incoming Iranian missiles, should the mullahs go mad and push the button. The idea is popular with the Czechs and their government. They enthusiastically joined NATO and the European Union, partly on the grounds that it would safeguard their independence from their Russian occupiers. The missile-defense facility is popular for the same reasons.
Yet the possibility of an American “Star Wars-style” rocket battery in Central Europe has angered center-left political leaders in Western Europe, which is currently outside the reach of Iran’s missiles, and Russian officials, who have long opposed missile defense for nations not allied to Russia. Russia has its own tactical missile defense and is currently supplying some 300 engineers to the Iranian nuclear energy facility in Nantaz.
Enter V√°clav Havel, who was both the last president of Czechoslovakia and first president of the Czech Republic, stepping down in 2003. He had come to the Hotel Carlos IV–in its former life the building was the central listening post of the Soviet secret police that overheard every overseas phone call in and out of Prague–to speak at a counter-terrorism conference. As I was one of the panelists in a later session, I asked Mr. Havel if he would talk to me on camera about the missile shield and Iran.