Friday, July 6, 2012

And so it begins?

A couple of weeks ago I posted a partial translation of an article from Britské listy by Jan Čulík, about how the Czech Republic should be doing more to cultivate friends among influential citizens of important countries. Čulík said, "The fact is, as Czechs know from history, that when it comes to a crisis, valid agreements are not fulfilled, unless their fulfillment is in the direct interest of the given power." So the Czechs need friends among the citizenry of the Western powers who will make the case that protecting the Czech Republic is in the interests of the West.

Then on Wednesday I came across a Guardian article about British Prime Minister David Cameron's announcement in Parliament that his ministers were considering measures for keeping Greeks out of Britain in case of Greek withdrawal from the euro leading to chaos in Greece. Later that day, I saw a post on Britské listy titled, "Is it beginning already ...?" and thought it must be about Cameron's move, and it was. What follows is my translation.


Is it beginning already ... ?
by Jan Čulík

I published a warning here recently that, in the current European situation, getting progressively less and less stable, the Czech Republic does not have strategic allies I argued that Czech politicians should be dedicating substantial sums to the expansion of Czech studies centers in (Western) countries where the fate of the Czech Republic is decided and will be decided. Not at all because I'd like money for my "area" (I myself will leave my university soon in any case) [Čulík is currently the Senior Lecturer in Czech Studies at the University of Glasgow], but because over the last twenty years I've witnessed what a tremendous cultural, social, economic, and strategic boon this is for the Czech Republic when it's done well.
As can be seen in the Italian film Piazza Fontana: The Italian conspiracy, presented at the this year's Karlovy Vary Film Festival, but also from other sources, it's not possible to conduct foreign policy simply by kissing the you-know-what of the most influential power, Russia at one time, the United States now. The movie Piazza Fontana shows in a shocking way, that when the going gets rough, certain elements in the governing structures are willing to commit any crime whatsoever so as to maintain their own influence. Piazza Fontana is about an event in 1969, when Italian right-wing extremists, in cooperation with some agents from NATO and from the American administration, carried out an assassination in a Milanese bank, during which 14 innocent people died and many others were wounded. At that time in Italy there were many left-wing protests and strikes, and the right was afraid that Italy might become part of the communist bloc. Therefore it was decided to sacrifice the lives of innocent citizens "for the salvation of the country." The assassination was supposed to lead to the abolition of democratic freedoms and the creation of an authoritarian right-wing state which would be firmly integrated into the North Atlantic alliance.

For many years I've been pointing out that for the stability and security of the Czech Republic, it's not enough to just kiss the U.S.'s you-know-what. The U.S. and other Western countries are like all other countries--their governments pursue only their own, selfish interests. By coincidence, at the end of the 80s, the selfish interest of the USA was the same as the interests of Czechoslovak citizens of the time, and so there came about the overthrow of the authoritarian communist regime. But if it were in the interests of the US to bomb Czech territory from unpiloted drones, as it does today in Afghanistan and Pakistan or in various places in Africa, Americans wouldn't hesitate to do it.

International politics is a selfish business, and the political horse-trading that you find in all politics holds true there as well: "What can you offer us in exchange for your security?" In that kind of situation, the fate of a small country such as the Czech Republic is very uncertain and it's very complicated to create your own, secure foreign policy. The current and future situation of the Czech Republic is all the more dangerous because the country doesn't have an intelligent, experienced, young, and capable official heading up its foreign policy. Farmer Schwarzenberg just isn't clever enough, aside from being old. [The Czech foreign minister is Karel Schwarzenberg, technically a prince, the current head of an old Czech noble family and an old friend of the late former Czech president Václav Havel.] Terrifyingly, he does nothing but repeat old stereotypes, he bears the imprint of the period before the fall of communism and is incapable of new strategic thinking. The Czech Republic could well pay a tremendous price for the non-existence of an intelligent, independent foreign policy. It should create strategic allies among the smaller countries of the European Union, from the east, sure, but expecially from the west--with Holland, Denmark, and the Scandinavian countries.

Why am I so frightened by this inaction and indolence on the part of Czech politicians amidst the rapidly worsening international situation? Britain today announced that if Greece drops out of the euro, it [Britain] will abrogate its commitments to the European Union and forbid Greeks entry to the country.

It is shocking to me that at the first sign of crisis, the governments of the Western countries (Britain as the first) immediately start behaving selfishly and forget all about human solidarity and about human rights. How long will it be before, say, Czechs are also forbidden entry to Western countries? How will we prepare for that and how will we head it off and confront it?

It's already beginning. Go back to Remarque. Reread how in the 1930s, as hitler was beginning to persecute the Jews, the European states closed their borders and refused to let the fleeing Jews into their countries. Hitler would gladly have deported them, but nobody wanted them, despite the fact that these people would have been a tremendous economic and cultural boon to any country (Israel has a record number of Nobel prizes).

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