Thursday, 24 May 2018

HN: Czech pledges to NATO at stake in gov't talks

ČTK |
16 May 2018

Prague, May 15 (CTK) - The Communist Party has threatened not to tolerate the nascent minority government of ANO and the Social Democrats (CSSD) if more Czech soldiers are deployed in NATO foreign missions, Petr Honzejk wrote in daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) on Tuesday, adding that the country is at a turning point.

The fact that the Czech pledges to its allies have turned into an issue in the negotiations about the formation of the government confirms that the country has arrived at a critical point, Honzejk says.

The foreign military missions are a crucial contribution to NATO and the collective defence: they anchor the Czech Republic in the West and the KSCM is trying to remove this anchor. There is no guarantee that the outcome of the negotiations will be good, Honzejk writes.

It is often said that the Communists are in fact harmless old men and ladies who do not take the Communist ideology seriously and are primarily interested in the bargaining from which they can profit. This may be true but it is not the whole truth, Honzejk writes.

He says KSCM voters are usually people who strongly oppose the path the country has taken following the fall of the Communist regime in 1989 and who have a nostalgia for the times of the Communism of the 1980s and admire the Russia of President Vladimir Putin. NATO is evil in their eyes and they do not want the Czechs to be a part of it.

If the KSCM supported a government that would reinforce the Czech participation in NATO missions, these people would lose one of the main reasons why they cast their votes for the party. They might decide to move to the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) movement, which is against NATO and likes Putin as well, Honzejk writes.

Paradoxically, the Communists are forced to stick to their principles in the government-forming negotiations by their pragmatic self-preservation instincts. But this may have unfortunate consequences for Czech politics in which the focus on the West has not been seriously challenged for 28 years.

It is the ANO movement and the CSSD who would be responsible for this, although ANO leader Andrej Babis claims he has no other solution as nobody else is willing to rule the country with him and ANO head Jan Hamacek argues that he has chosen the lesser evil in order to save the CSSD, Honzejk writes.

The Communists may be simply trying to win more lucrative posts in state-run companies and other advantages for themselves, but it is a question what Babis would be willing to offer to them. The pro-Russian stream represented by CSSD deputy chairman Jaroslav Foldyna is getting stronger among the Social Democrats, Honzejk says.

He says President Milos Zeman may play a role in the negotiations. On the one hand, Zeman promotes foreign military missions. On the other hand, he is the most active supporter of a government relying not only on the Communists but also on the SPD of Tomio Okamura. And Zeman is well aware that a government supported by the KSCM and the SPD would not be pro-Western. It seems that the anti-Western and pro-Russian focus of such a government is one of the reasons why he has been pushing for it, Honzejk writes.

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