Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
One-on-One at Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
November 6, 2009

SLOVAK RADIO: As regards to Slovakia, our Prime Minister said that we don’t want anti-missile system, any part of it in our country. What is your reaction to that and what the Slovakia position is as regards the anti-missile system?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: One of the great merits of the phased adaptive missile defense approach that we have decided to pursue is that it is flexible and it doesn’t rely on one particular site and geography or bilateral relationship to move forward. There are in fact many possible sites for radars and interceptors. So if any particular country is not interested in hosting them, that’s fine. We want this to be embedded in NATO but it doesn’t mean that every particular NATO country has to be a part of it. It’s a sovereign decision for governments to make.

SLOVAK RADIO: Wasn’t it premature to make such statement before you introduce your region of the anti-missile system like in a more specific way?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We’ll remain in close touch with the Slovakian government and other governments on how we’re moving forward. And if the time comes where they want to participate in a different way, then they can let us know. But again, the merit of this plan, we think, is that it is exceptionally flexible and will allow each country to take part as it wants to take part. We’re fine.

SLOVAK RADIO: Slovak-Hungarian relations in the last few months, they are really bad. I’m watching it with concern. What is your reaction to that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We are watching it with concern. Minority questions in Europe, everywhere, but in Europe and particularly Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans are particularly tricky and difficult and cause unfortunate deterioration of relations among countries.

In this case we’re glad both governments are talking about it. It really is for them to resolve. That is the spirit of European Union membership and OSCE membership. And we’ll be supportive in any way we can, but it really is something the governments can and should and are dealing with in an appropriate way.

SLOVAK RADIO: The last question, as regards to the language law, which the Hungarian side claims is discriminative to minorities in Slovakia. Some people are trying to pull the U.S. in on the discussion.

For example, Governor Pataki was in Slovakia and he said the U.S. don’t like it. Not officially, but for his point of view.

Is the U.S. going to take the side? And what is your reaction to this constantly trying to get the U.S. to make some statement about that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: The United States, we’re obviously following it very closely. It’s an important issue. But we’re not going to take sides or get involved in that way, in a way that would really, frankly, not contribute to resolution. I think the OSCE can be important in this regard. It’s comprehensive. It doesn’t precisely take sides. And following OSCE guidelines and advice on this sort of issue is the sort of thing that we think needs to be done.

SLOVAK RADIO: Thank you very much.