zeman putin


Zeman’s Silence On Anniversary Of Soviet Invasion Benefits Moscow

Miloš Zeman

Prague, Aug 20 (CTK) – President Milos Zeman’s silence on the 50th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia is eloquent, showing that he wants to annoy neither his friend Vladimir Putin nor the Czech public, and playing into the hands of Russia, Petr Honzejk writes in Hospodarske noviny (HN) today.


He reacts to Zeman’s announcement that, unlike other Czech politicians, he will not give any speech on the anniversary falling on Tuesday.


This can only be explained by Zeman being at his wits’ end. If he said something relevant, for example, that the Czechs must do their best for the tragedy of the country’s invasion by the Eastern Empire to never repeat, he would annoy Russian President Putin. If he, on the contrary, relativised the 1968 invasion, he would make the Kremlin jump with joy but would meet with a wave of criticism at home. That is why he prefers keeping silent, Honzejk writes.


Zeman’s spokesman has repeatedly mentioned Zeman’s statements and positions from the past, when he condemned the August 21, 1968 military invasion. The current silence of Zeman, nevertheless, clearly shows in which direction his loyalty has swung in the meantime. It clearly plays into the hands of Russia, Honzejk writes.


The silence of the president, who is the top Czech leader, opens the space for the Kremlin’s game of relativising the 1968 events and mainly their significance for the present time, Honzejk says.


In recent days, the Czech public debate has been overwhelmed by the absurd statements by Communist (KSCM) chairman Vojtech Filip, who recently said Russia did not have much to do with the invasion of Czechoslovakia, since [then Soviet leader Leonid] Brezhnev was Ukrainian, as was a majority of the invading Soviet armies, and therefore it is mainly Ukraine that is to blame.


This is a clear example of a successful Russian information operation. The public debate has focused on Filip’s absurd statement, almost overshadowing the significant questions of what the August 1968 events mean to the present Czechs and what approach Prague should take towards the Eastern big power, which Ukraine is not, Honzejk writes.


Those who assert that the present Russia has nothing to do with the Soviet Union, must be told that Russia is de facto the successor state of the Soviet Union and that it prides in being it, Honzejk writes, mentioning the Russian anthem with the score identical with the former Soviet one, and the Russian airlines’ sickle-and-hammer emblem, also typical of the Soviet Union.


He also cites Putin’s words that the disintegration of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.


Russia is the matter-of-fact as well as mental heir to the Soviet Union, the big power that occupied Czechoslovakia 50 years ago, Honzejk writes.


It is not identical with the Soviet Union, it is not a purely totalitarian state. Nevertheless, the current Russia’s behaviour shows that Russia has learnt much new things but has forgotten nothing. Its invasion of some neighbour areas (Georgia’s Ossetia and Abkhazia, Crimea…) is persuasive in this respect, Honzejk writes.


This must be permanently remembered, this why the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the invasion is important.


The fact that there is no imminent danger does not mean that Czechs should cease to be cautious. True, no invasion of 200,000 soldiers threatens the country now. At present, there are different methods to pursue one’s imperial ambitions. They have been well described in Russian Chief-Of-Staff Valery Gerasimov’s text on hybrid warfare, a type of conflict in which influence, cyberspace and mainly people’s minds are battled for, Honzejk writes.


That is why a risk is posed not only by relativisations such as the statements of Filip, who openly sides with Russia, but also by softer methods used, among others, by former Czech president Vaclav Klaus, Honzejk writes.


Klaus, in a recent TV interview, admitted that Russia is an expansive state but added that it profoundly differs from the Soviet Union and that it should be treated cautiously.


“To foment new and new Cold Wars, which some permanently try to do, is a childish policy,” Klaus said.


Words like his is what helps the Kremlin. An impression is being made as if Russia only reacts to the West’s lash-outs at it. This is not the case, however. Violations of the international law, the occupation of foreign countries’ territory, the influencing of elections in the West, staging murders abroad (Skripal in Britain), this is not what a defensive looks like, Honzejk writes.


The August 21 anniversary should be a good opportunity to realise that the events of 1968 are no dead past. Russian operations within the hybrid conflict are in full swing. Unfortunately, the approach of some Czech politicians to the August 21 anniversary indicates with which party to the conflict they side. This is also true of Zeman’s silence, Honzejk adds.