The US Ambassador to Prague tried to teach Czech President Zeman how he should express devotion to Euro-integration and show respect to the Obama-led flagship of world democracy. Zeman responded by saying Andrew Schapiro is not welcome in his castle.
The statement followed criticism by the US diplomat of Milos Zeman’s decision to attend the Victory Day celebration in Moscow on May 9. Ambassador Andrew Schapiro called the plans “short-sighted” adding that it would “be awkward” if the Czech president was the only statesman from an EU country on Red Square. Schapiro was probably unaware, that among about thirty heads of state from around the world who have so far confirmed their plans to attend the V-Day parade in Moscow, at least three will be from the European Union countries: Greece, Cyprus and – the Czech Republic.
But it’s not the ignorance of American politicians, which has long been the talk of the world, but the arrogance, which under the Obama rule has become the main characteristic of the American political class. And it is best illustrated by the one we see in the window of US foreign policy, Jen Psaki:
“May may seem close, but it’s a long time away,”- was all she had to say, commenting on the upcoming Anniversary of the end of the War.
America has always been a long distance away from Europe, but in the 21st century the distance seems to be shrinking rapidly and not everyone in the Old World seems to be happy about it. Czech President Zeman is certainly one of them. Who would disagree with him, when he says that it is simply impossible to imagine that the Czech Ambassador to Washington would start advising the American President, where he must go and when? Maybe it is because Europeans are used to assigning career diplomats to being their Chargé d’affaires, while Andrew Schapiro is a middle-aged Chicago lawyer who was appointed Ambassador to the Czech Republic six months ago after being actively involved in President Obama’s reelection campaign. Which is a typical American payback: presidents there often appoint political allies ambassadors to US-friendly countries.
But Schapiro’s behavior not only sparks anti-American sentiment in Prague – it has provoked a war between the Czech foreign ministry and Prague Castle, the imposing seat of the presidency, undermining the country’s foreign policy as EU leaders call for unity in an effort to end the conflict in Ukraine. The diplomatic fault lines around President Zeman highlight a real fragility inside the European Union, where many political analysts consider that Moscow is trying to undermine solidarity on sanctions against Russia among its former Central European allies through divide-and-rule tactics.
I can imagine that the Ambassador’s words were just a simple answer to an interview, in which the president voiced his concern over the current Western attempts to isolate Russia.
“It is essential to maintain and develop relations with Russia not only on a commercial basis, but also, for instance, based on the strategic partnership in the fight against international terrorism,” Zeman said, before he started packing for the trip to Russia. His intention to pay a visit to Moscow in May was announced as early as January. Sources in the Czech government, which play a leading role in the country’s foreign policy, informally expressed disappointment over this decision, however, according to the Czech media, the Cabinet “will not try to prevent this trip, because never before in Czech history there was such a precedent.”
But Zeman, in turn, explained that his visit to Russia would be a “sign of gratitude for not having to speak German in this country.” He also intended to pay tribute to the memory of 150,000 Soviet soldiers who died liberating Czechoslovakia. Well, it looks like the man is just trying to be honest and straightforward, while Washington is panicking because it is apparently failing to isolate Russia.
And Moscow is absolutely aware of that. Here’s a quote from one of the resent Tweets by Aleksey Pushkov, head of the State Duma Foreign Relations Committee:
“Judging by the hysteria of the US Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Washington is nervous about Western countries’ leaders traveling to Moscow on May 9. Scared that the isolation will not work.”
Western leaders are boycotting the celebrations in Moscow on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Victory over Nazi Germany in support of the policy of isolation of Russia over Russia’s reunification with the Crimea and its support of the rebel regions in Eastern Ukraine.
But despite all the US diplomatic effort, the split among Europeans on relations with Russia is obvious. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel has come up with a compromise: she plans to arrive in Moscow the day after, on May 10. Joined by President Vladimir Putin she will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin wall. This in itself is a challenge to other European leaders. How, for example, David Cameron is going to explain to the British public why the German leader found courage to congratulate the Russians with their victory over the Nazi Germany, while the allies totally boycotted the anniversary?