Russia 'must punish Prague over U.S. shield with beer boycott'

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21:02 | 23/ 07/ 2008

MOSCOW, July 23 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian boycott on Czech beer in response
to the placement of a U.S. missile defense radar in the Czech Republic
could deliver a serious blow to the Czech economy, a Russian analyst said
on Wednesday.

The U.S. plans to place a radar in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor
missiles in northern Poland as part of a U.S. missile shield for Europe and
North America against possible attacks from "rogue states," including Iran.
Russia strongly opposes the possible deployment of the U.S. missile shield,
viewing it as a threat to its national security.

"If Russian consumers refuse to drink Czech beer in protest at the
deployment of a U.S. radar [in the Czech Republic] would be a serious
response, more serious than the suspension of oil supplies or any protest
note sent by the Russian Foreign Ministry," said Alexander Pikayev,
director of the department of Disarmament and Conflict Resolution at the
Institute of World Economy and International Relations.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Czech Foreign Minister Karel
Schwarzenberg signed an agreement in Prague on July 8 on the deployment of
a missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic.

The Czech-U.S. treaty has yet to be ratified by the Czech parliament or
signed by the Czech president, however.

The U.S. is planning to link the early warning radar in the Czech Republic
with an interceptor missile base in Poland, but negotiations with Warsaw
have stalled.

The Czech Republic is world famous for its beer production and consumption.
Beer is ingrained in the Czech culture so much that the beer industry is
considered a part of the national heritage.

The popularity of Czech beer has been on the rise in Russia in terms of
levels of consumption - however Czech beer is being increasingly produced
under licenses in Russia instead of being imported from the Czech Republic.

Officials from the Union of Russian Brewers told RIA Novosti on Wednesday
that, "The consumption of imported beer in Russia is only 1.5-2% of the
overall market, and, for instance, we cannot even attempt to calculate the
share of Czech beer in this tiny segment," they said.

"Most foreign brands are produced in Russia under license," they added.

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