[JURIST] US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg [official profiles] Tuesday signed [press statement] an agreement allowing the US to install ballistic missile radar systems in the Czech Republic, prompting an immediate Russian threat of a "military-technical" response if the deal is implemented. The two signatories worked out most of the details [joint statement] of the agreement in April, but it has yet to be approved by the Czech parliament. An estimated two-thirds of Czechs oppose the pact and over 1000 protesters demonstrated Monday against its signing in Prague. The US is seeking a similar agreement with Poland [AFP report], but that agreement has been delayed by disagreements over what other military aid might be involved. The International Herald Tribune has more. AP has additional coverage.
The Russian Foreign Ministry [official website], claiming the system would threaten Russia's national security, said afterwards [BBC report] in an official statement [text; automated English translation] that "If a US strategic anti-missile shield starts to be deployed near our borders, we will be forced to react not in a diplomatic fashion but with military-technical means." The US insists [Reuters report] that the system is designed to protect the region from attacks launched from the Middle East, and that it has offered to cooperate with Russia on the plan. Russia has long opposed the expansion of the missile defense system [JURIST news archive] into Eastern Europe, suspending its participation [JURIST report] in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) [text; backgrounder] in November 2007 because of the plans before conditionally agreeing to rejoin the treaty [JURIST report] in April.