So in the interests of bolstering cooperation (and what I see as an attempt by the United States to gain support for their missile shield defense system in Central Europe) the United States and the Czech Republic are near an agreement that would allow Czech citizens to visit the U.S. without needing a visa.
As it stands right now, Czechs need a visa to enter the United States, and even if they have a visa they can still be denied entry. I have a friend names Honza who was in Canada in 2002. He had a visa to travel to the United States, and he and his friends tried to do just that. Now Honza is a tall guy, and he has long blonde hair. He wears metal band t-shirts and jeans. He looks like the tens of millions of teenagers/young adults out there. He was denied entry into the United States from Canada, despite the fact that he had a visa. He was given no reason for the refusal; he was just told that he couldn’t enter America.
Granted, this was 2002, so the height of terrorist mania was in full swing. And maybe he looked a little different or strange (something that was a crime against every single citizen of the United States in those dark days), but I question if that is really a strong enough reason to keep someone out of the country.
Good news for Honza, though, and any other Czech citizen who wishes to visit the United States as the visa requirement could be lifted in as little time as two weeks. There does not seem to be much left to do except go over the exact wording of the agreement and make it official.
Of course, if Czechs want to work or study in the US they will still need a visa or work permit for that. But, this should make those items easier to obtain, or at the very least reduce the amount of paperwork involved. There is no real effect on US citizens who wish to visit the CZ. We still need to get our passports stamped, and we still need to leave the country and Schengen territories after three months.
Still, it is nice to see that the US is dropping this draconian practice and realizing that the Czechs are our friends. We forget that because they were part of the USSR, but we have to remember that it was not their fault the Soviets came in and occupied them. The Czechs did not ask for it, and they were unable to defend themselves against the Red Machine. As a result they had to live under communist rule, and to this day there are still those who hate the Russian/Soviet era and feel ashamed and responsible for those times.
The Czech Republic is a REPUBLIC or Democracy, much like the US, and I think it is time we recognize that and start believing it. Plus there is the issue of the missile shield. There has been some opposition to the placement of the shield witin the Czech and Polish borders because it has the potential to be seen as a threat to Russia, and while it’s true that the Czechs have no love for Russia, it is probably also true that they still harbor some fear of that country and do not want to do anything to antagonize it.
Personally I think the missile shield is a bad idea. Not only will it sow dissent and fear among the Russian government, it will also establish that it is okay to have these types of facilities. Once that has happened, how many more missile defense systems will be built, and how can we be sure that they will only be built by us? There is no answering the first part of the question, and the answer to the second part is simply, we can’t. It’s like when we developed the BOMB. We were the first ones to have it, but that did not last long, and now there are too many nuclear weapons circulating throughout the world, making it a far more dangerous place than it was previously.