Russia can understand only power - former Czech defence minister


21.08.2014 20:26

Prague - Power is the only thing Russians can understand, former Czech defence minister Alexandr Vondra told today´s issue of weekly Reflex, adding that NATO should have big military contingents in the Baltic states, Poland and Romania.


Ilustrační foto - Bývalý ministr obrany Alexandr Vondra (na snímku) se 12. března v Praze zúčastnil národní konference 15 let Česka v NATO - naše bezpečnost není samozřejmost. ČTK Šulová Kateřina

"I would welcome if the West applied the politics of power more. It should guarantee the security of the countries that feel threatened by the crisis in Ukraine, that is Poland, Romania and especially the Baltic states," he said.

Vondra, 53, was a dissident opposing the communist regime in the 1980s. He was Czech ambassador to Washington (1997-2001), EU affairs minister (2007-2009) and defence minister (2010-2012). He heads the Prague Centre for Transatlantic Relations think tank and lectures on international and security relations at two Czech universities. He is a member of the right-wing Civic Democratic Party (ODS).

Reflex notes that, according to the Wikileaks server, U.S. diplomats labelled Vondra the greatest U.S. ally on the Czech political scene.

Vondra said he thinks Europe is not moving towards a conflict that would turn into a big war.

"The present West does not have enough determination for it (war), its societies are overaged. However, we are facing a hard time of instabilities and protracted conflicts. And if the West does not find the resolve to be more active, a series of local conflicts on the periphery of Europe can cause a lot of damage," Vondra said.

He pointed out that Europe cannot rely on the United States as the American society does not want its country to be strongly involved in the world anymore, due to the economic crisis and fatigue from hyperactivity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vondra said U.S. President Barack Obama would probably prefer moderate isolationism and primarily focus on domestic affairs if his Democrats lose the Congress election later this year.

He said he believes Russia is not planning a military intervention in Ukraine because President Vladimir Putin knows well that the economic costs would be enormous.

"Putin simply wanted to take Crimea. This has greatly increased his popularity," Vondra told the weekly.

He said Putin expects the negotiations on Russian gas deliveries to Ukraine to become tense in winter again and lead to further instability.

According to Vondra, European sanctions against Russia would not help much. The EU should focus on economic support to Ukraine, he said.

"The vital interest of the Czech Republic is that Ukraine remains an undivided, sovereign country. Its disintegration would be accompanied by even worse conflicts. And it would mean that Russia would get closer to our borders," Vondra said.

He said he is surprised that many Czech people side with Russia and that they cannot decipher the Russian propaganda which often seemed as large-scale as that of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

Vondra said Western Europe and even the United States underestimated Russia because they considered it weak.

He said the German switchover from nuclear power to renewable resources after the Fukushima disaster seems irrational and hysterical to him. He indicated that this tendency makes Europe more dependent on Russian gas and oil.

Vondra said a part of the current European right wing unfortunately admired Russia.

"Putin is aware of it and he presents himself as the defender of traditional values," he said.

Vondra said there is no liberal-conservative right wing in Europe that would defend the traditional values and appeal to high numbers of people.

Either the right-wing leaders started promoting the rainbow-green agenda like British Prime Minister David Cameron or they looked up to Russia like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, he added.

Unless somebody else appears, the West in not going to wake up, Vondra said.

He said the Czech foreign policy forming after the fall of the communist regime in 1989 was a table standing on three legs - the Atlantic, European and neighbourly, with Germany and Poland being the key neighbours.

"The constellation was extremely good then - strong United States, weak Russia, developing Europe, self-confident Poland, moderate Germany," Vondra said.

He said the situation is far more difficult now because the USA and the EU are burdened by their own problems, which results in their outward weakness.

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