On Sunday, we decided to make a trip to the place where the U.S. radar may be built which is near the Míšov village in the Brdy Hills, less than 30 miles Southeast from Pilsen.
There are nice, untouched forests around: dozens or hundreds of squared miles were (or are) used as a military training area. However, we completely ignored all the access restrictions. There was no one there who would care. A fancy golf course is nearby, too. The people who live in these villages are ordinary Czechs, the kind of people whom we are used to meet every day. Most of them don't want the radar.
However, what I found even more striking was that the locals had essentially no idea about the radar. They didn't know where it should be located: not even the guy who sold us the sausages and the beer and who works one mile from the key spot had any clue about the location. They didn't seem to care.
Eventually I found the right person who explained me that the radar should be built on a peak that is 718 meters above the sea level and how we can get there. When you walk (or bike like my friend or drive your small motorcycle like your humble correspondent) through the deep forests, you see that one radar facility - one percent of a squared kilometer? - doesn't change much about the landscape. It's negligible.
Because of these two reasons - ignorance of the locals and the depth of the forests - I have thus decided that it is absolutely correct that the local referenda don't influence any decisions about the project. The local people don't own the forests and the project won't influence them in any way. Unless Putin or another leader decides to exchange nukes in a piece of a Czech forest for nukes in the Red Square which I find much less likely than a proclamation about the same act, they won't even notice. ;-)
Because one project of this kind doesn't change anything about the membership of the country or the obligations of its citizens etc., I also think that a national referendum is unnecessary.
The main significance of the project is a global one. And I would say that even the global meaning of the radar is mostly symbolic. It is not easy to present a convincing calculation showing that the U.S. security or the security of its allies will significantly increase when all direct and indirect consequences of the project are taken into account. I see the defense system primarily as a sign that tells the world that the U.S. and some other developed democratic countries want others to forget about wars and attacks and the thoughtful part of the Czech Republic doesn't want the democratic world to be attacked either.
And that's the memo.
P.S. Soon after we left the forest, my motor's power plummeted to about 50 percent and the motorbike became unable to climb any hills while the maximum speed on horizontal roads dropped to 10 mph or so. Not only I became unable to push Víťa who is not exactly another Lance Armstrong - he had to rely on his muscles in the second part of the 65-mile trip instead - but I had to use the pedals, too. Pedalling your heavy motorbike in a hilly area for 30 miles is not the most joyful experience in the world but I survived. ;-) So far, no one is sure how to fix it...