Focused on Brussels
Last year in July, leading figures of Central Europe, among them former Czech president Václav Havel, sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing fears of Russian influence and calling on the American president not to “throw overboard” his allies in Central and Eastern Europe.
Only the resetting of relations with Moscow still continues, and we have a complicated situation in Afghanistan and the growing influence of China. How does the American administration look at its European allies, including the Czech Republic, now? Here are a couple of observations...
A year ago they couldn’t have cared less whether the American administration had a greater sensitivity towards European matters, say some American analysts. And even diplomats of European countries acknowledge that, in the last two months, people from Washington had been looking around themselves more, while supposedly saying “Don’t overburden us,” and now that has changed to “What do you propose?” How does this change of behavior manifest itself concretely? In recent days, foreign ministers, from the Bulgarian to the Czech to the Lithuanian, have visited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton one after the other as on an assembly line, and she reportedly listened to them, on the one hand, and on the other explained the American position. That is respected.
Only Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg correctly asked the question: Do the Americans need us for anything now? Of course, Afghanistan. There is a need for every available soldier there, and regardless if the Czech Republic increased in its entire proportion, and it would not be enormous, it is certainly important. What, however, can we say to China? And is anyone interested in the Czech opinion on Russia, when the American one for the time being differs on a thing or two?
To address the Czech skepticism that we are neglected, the Americans argue thus: Look how many times Obama has visited you. Did Vice-President Joe Biden go, too? Yes, he did. But we can ask: what does it prove?
There is a need for Americans to engage in concrete projects. For example, I could mention the Eastern Partnership. Here we ask that the Obama administration get involved in it more. Only how does one simultaneously help, let’s say, Georgia, get closer to the European Union and be Russia’s “friend”? It is quite unrealizable.
The truth is that it would be unfair to scold the Americans for their lack of interest in Europe. We have to understand that they are currently trying to solve many problems, on the domestic stage as well as abroad. More than any other administration in history, so they say. What is more, as American analysts correctly note, Europe sometimes complicates matters on account of its disunity. As far as the aforementioned Eastern Partnership is concerned, we and the Poles have a different opinion than the French, for example.
And so for a summary? In spite of all the events of recent months, it looks as though certain wishy-washy relations between the E.U. and the U.S. will be here for a while. The situation in America now is complicated by the fact that congressional elections will take place in early November; this theme dominates all political debates now. It remains to be seen. Let’s let Obama’s people make their efforts. On the other hand, we can also have an influence on things in order to be more useful to our overseas ally — namely, work on unity in the framework of the European Union (which is very complicated). And what concretely could the Czech Republic improve? The new government in our country is looking around but has not undertaken much on the international political scene. After everything has settled down and the October elections are over, we should once again buckle down to the issue of the observance of human rights in the world. In that area we have a bit of a deficit in recent times. Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Tibet — we’ve heard a lot about it … but we may hear some more …