As L. Todd Wood reports in The Washington Times the Czech Republic is on the verge of slipping back into Russia’s “iron embrace”. Excerpt below:
One of the hallmarks of the ex-Soviet countries is the reign of the self-serving elite, which evolved from the old communist “nomenklatura” — the top party cadre. Oligarchs usually run the country, skimming off the top.
Unfortunately, in the Czech Republic, powerful business interests are coming into power. Exhibit A is Andrej Babis, a very influential billionaire. His ANO party and the powerful media empire he controls are ascendant. On Oct. 20 and 21, Czech voters will choose the members of the Chamber of Deputies, which will elect the prime minister. Opinion polling suggest ANO is the country’s most popular political party, making Mr. Babis the favorite to be the next prime minister.
Mr. Babis is viewed as a billionaire media mogul who is more interested in his own business interests than in cleaning house.
Another corrosive influence is the uncomfortably close relationship of President Milos Zeman with the Kremlin. Soviet and Russian security services’ involvement in European politics is legendary. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who worked in neighboring East Germany, would like nothing better than to have outsize influence on a NATO member seen as a model for Central European success. Currently, Mr. Zeman, a sympathizer of Mr. Putin who has supported Russia’s policies in Syria and Ukraine, may be re-elected in January 2018.
Allowing Kremlin confidants into the inner sanctums of Czech political power sets a dangerous precedent. It is no secret that Martin Nejedly, chief executive of the Czech branch of the Russian energy firm Lukoil, is a close confidant of President Zeman.
Mr. Babis and Mr. Zeman could be the agents of change to move the Czech Republic away from the EU and NATO and into the Russian bear’s iron embrace. Before bringing to power a government that accelerates the decline of the rule of law and politicizes the court system further,
Czech voters should consider the inevitable fruit of their choice. Elections have consequences. The consequences of this election could be a weakening of NATO and the EU as we know them today.