Russia’s Rising Influence with the Czech Republic

Gregory Feifer and Brian Whitmore have published a much-awaited (at least for us) investigative report in the New Republic looking into Russia’s ambitious nuclear diplomacy and foreign policy with the Czech Republic, which has been producing some dramatic developments under the radar.  With Washington’s head in the sand, is it too late to repair the relationship and compete with Russia’s courtship?

Jiri Kominek, an analyst with the Jamestown Foundation, says Moscow is putting “unprecedented”  lobbying pressure on the Czech government, and Klaus has already endorsed Atomstroyexport, although he has no formal role in the process. Vice President Joe Biden advocated for Westinghouse when he visited Prague last winter, but pro-Western politicians in Prague say the United States has been slow to grasp Temelin’s significance. (The American embassy in Prague and officials in Washington declined interview requests.) “I don’t think they care a bloody damn about us,” said Schwarzenberg. (…)

Last year, as Czechs took to the streets for the Velvet Revolution’stwentieth anniversary, Havel refrained from jubilation. “The era ofdictatorships and totalitarian systems hasn’t ended,” he said in aspeech. He also led a group of prominent Central and Eastern Europeanpoliticians that published an open letter to President Obama warning of a”growing sense of nervousness” in Central and Eastern Europe. “All isnot well either in our region or in the transatlantic relationship,” theletter said. It described Russia’s “overt and covert means of economicwarfare” against former Soviet states, and concluded, “The threat toenergy supplies can exert an immediate influence on our nations’political sovereignty, also as allies contributing to common decisionsin nato.”

Havel emphasized this point in an interview.Russianstate-controlled and private enterprises, he said, are”undoubtedly influencing the behavior of various Czech political partiesand politicians. I’ve seen several cases where the influence startedquietly and slowly began projecting onto our foreign policy.” He added,with characteristic gravity and a touch of understatement, “I can onlyadvise great caution.”