Commentary: The pro-Putin fifth column in the Czech Republic, what it wants and how it plans to seize power
An unpleasantly large number of people in the Czech Republic take a kindly, understanding view of Russian President Vladimir Putin, downplaying and excusing his war, which is ravaging Ukraine like Hitler's war once did. These same people previously downplayed the annexation of Crimea and the splitting off of eastern Ukraine, the Russian presence in Transdniestria, Russian troop engagements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and they parroted Russia's lies about the shooting down of the civilian airliner MH17 from Malaysia.
Who are these people? Among them we can find communists, ex-communists and anti-communists, both left-oriented and right-oriented persons, individuals from both Christian and esoteric circles.
Their numbers include no lack of stubborn anti-vaxxers. Many are strong opponents of the EU and NATO.
I have also noted the repugnant statements they make, such as the woman who said "I'd shoot all the Ukrainians in the Czech Republic dead," or the bloodthirsty call to "Let Putin drop the atom bomb on Ukraine". This weakness for the former comrade and KGB agent rolled into one, who is now the autocrat of Russia and a modern Czar responsible for the devastation of Ukraine, is absolutely blooming in some circles in the Czech Republic and gradually transforming into open support for him.
Affection for mass murderers
Let's leave aside any kind of detailed analysis right now about where such an amiable view of the crimes committed by the Kremlin begins. We could speculate as to whether the tendency toward totalitarianism has gotten under these people's skin, or whether they're just foolish, or whether they're being either blackmailed by those from the east or paid by them.
We could speculate as to whether such people are political populists who want to build their careers by getting out in front of those voters who are willing to let Putin plunder Ukraine. Maybe their attitudes toward Moscow conceal a business - after all, through their websites the sympathizers with the war do contribute financing to different pro-Russian activities.
Maybe these are people who have to be opposed to the mainstream at any cost, out of "principle", as they say? Could it be that they hate the EU and NATO so much that they prefer to team up with Russia under the slogan of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"?
Perhaps these are people with unsuccessful lives who want to find their purpose in cozying up to the Big Brother-Usurper, their fellow Slav who has so frequently trampled on all the other Slavs, murdered them and Russified them? We could also ignore yet another fact, which is that the members of this fifth column have not ascribed responsibility for this war to Moscow (they say she is innocently involved and responsible for nothing) but are absurdly ascribing it to the EU and NATO.
These people also blame Ukraine for the war, her attempt to extricate herself from the influence of Russia, which she has no right to do in their opinion. Here is yet another fact we won't discuss in detail right now: The fifth column is demanding an end to weapons supplies to Ukraine, they claim they don't want the conflict to escalate, they claim they want it to end so lives will be saved.
This last aspect appears to be humane. However, whoever says "A" should continue on to "B", which is this simple truth: Russia will conquer an insufficiently armed Ukraine. As we see from the already-occupied territories there, what follows is murders, torture, rapes, arrests, convictions and imprisonments, expulsions from schools and employment, the theft of private property and national wealth, uncompromising Russification and pro-Russian (in other words, anti-Ukrainian) instruction in schools, the persecution of all who will not bow down, the abduction of Ukrainians to Russia, children kidnaped for re-education (as the Nazis did to Czech children) and the destruction of the nation of Ukraine.
Nothing humane is being carried out under the colors of the Russian Federation, but rather crime after crime in the spirit of the Nazis and the communists. If Russia occupies Ukraine, what awaits her inhabitants, in some form, is what Hitler planned to do with us Czechs.
Russia will have no mercy. You either submit, or... you'll see what will happen!
If Putin were to break Ukraine, there is part of it that he would not annex to Russia, but he would install a puppet government completely subservient to him there to carry out the same repression as if it were annexed. Let's not dwell on considering whether Russia, if it were to acquire all of Ukraine, would not then press on into the west sooner or later, which means to the Czech Republic as well.
I'm after something else here. I offer these two reflections:
1. What will the openly or covertly pro-Putin individuals do here if they work their way into power in the Czech Republic? If they were to succeed, how far would they go?
2. What path would they take if Russia were to defeat Ukraine, intimidate NATO and make it all the way to the Czech Republic?
How to get into power and what to do next...
What will the people and politicians who are backing Russia's lies offer the voters in order to get ahold of the Government here? Will they offer the immediate stoppage of arms supplies to Ukraine and an agreement with Putin on cheap gas and oil?
Will they offer to "normalize" relations with Moscow? Will they fool those voters - who either do not know or have long since forgotten what Russia's "know-how" is - that energy independence from Moscow is not an issue?
Who among their voters comprehends that the capitulation of Ukraine could prefigure the fall of the Czech Republic? Maybe Moscow is proposing the following to the Czech fifth column (perhaps has already proposed it): "Ukraine is enough for us, we'll let you be. We guarantee you cheap gas and oil. After you win the elections, we'll rely on your pro-Russian policy. Vote to leave the EU and NATO. You won't lose, we know how to reward our friends. Remember how well the Husáks, the Bilaks, the Jakešes, the Štěpáns, and the Lenárts used to live in communist Czechoslovakia. Without us, they would have been nothing - with us, they were everything."
If the advocates of an accommodating view of the Kremlin were to actually win the elections, a pro-Russian and also strongly anti-EU Government would arise. The outside world would see that the Czech Republic had sold itself to the Russian bear, but what would happen inside the country?
How would these people be likely to treat the Czechs who had strictly objected to Moscow? Recall that in 2016, the Czech Police arrested Czechs who were expressing their disagreement with China's policies in public during the Chinese President's visit to the Czech Republic.
Law enforcement demanded the removal of Tibetan flags from sight on that occasion. That same police force then kept quiet when, in the streets of Prague, organized Chinese people who were welcoming their President appeared and assaulted Czech citizens holding the flag of Tibet.
The servility of Czech President Zeman and the Government at that time toward the Chinese was incomprehensible. If we had ended up in the Russian zone of influence, what would it have looked like during a visit by the Russian ruler and his entourage...?
A pro-Russian Government would have manipulated public opinion to benefit Moscow. Anybody can watch the archived news broadcasts from the normalization era in Czechoslovakia online today.
Would a similar mass media campaign have overrun our country as it did back then? "Naughty" independent editors would have found themselves under an avalanche of tendentious audits from the tax authorities, the public health authorities, the labor safety office.
The ladies in suits and the boys in ties would always have found something wrong. Assemblies against Moscow would have been banned and the unannounced ones would have been dispersed.
What if Russia were to come here?
What would the representatives of todays' fifth column do if the Russians, after developments that currently seem unlikely, were to appear on the ground all the way here in Prague? It is not difficult to imagine that they would willingly aid the placing of the Russian noose around the neck of the Czech nation - they would do it the way our communists did it in 1948.
Such people would be glad to accept any smuggler entrusted by the Russians with running the country. How many Czechs would likely join the Russians because they would smell a career, money and power in it?
How many cynical cowards/pragmatists, rats placing their personal interests above that of the nation, would again come out of the woodwork? We know this from the days after February 1948 and August 1968.
The faces of these likely future agents, collaborators and informers are looking down on us already today from our television screens and the articles they author - all we have to do is pay attention. You can recognize them by how they speak, by their body language, by their prickly, shifty eyes, by their evasions.
Tens of thousands more of them are still invisible to us for now, though. Back then your time in jail, or being fired from your job, would frequently have been arranged by your neighbor, or maybe by a relative, or a former friend, or a political staffer at work, or a rat from the athletic department, or a schoolmate, or a teacher.
Their reason did not have to be an anti-Russian attitude on your part at all, just their desire for revenge for a long-ago wrong (or maybe the mere allegation of one), or their ordinary envy, or disputes with your neighbors. What I am writing here is not at all far-fetched, we all know this from the days of the Nazis and the communists.
When evil takes hold, such human brutes immediately emerge, and the country then becomes contaminated through a tsunami of misfortune and pain, like a plague. This would not just be about persecuting opponents, either - under the influence of succumbing to the east, this society would foster exactly the kind of phenomena that happened after 1969.
Back then the collaborators with communist and Moscow-based power contributed to getting people fired and expelled from school, to censorship, to informing on others, to narking. They pushed their way into the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, into the People's Militia and the Marxist-Leninist Night College, they signed up to collaborate with the State Security Service (StB).
They juggled phrases full of the USSR, socialism and the rotten West during their ideological training. Back then, society withdrew into itself, into hobbies, weekend cottages, little gardens, watching television.
Each person struggled alone, each person was looking for a way to organize life under the totalitarian state. All of this could easily repeat itself.
A new order?
Russia is planning, according to statements made by former Russian President Medvedev, to build a new order comprising territory from Lisbon to Vladivostok, a system that will doubtless be built on authoritarian-police orders and subjecting Europe to the ambitions, both dark and imperial, of Moscow. The bombing of European metropolises and the domination of Central Europe is being threatened by Russia already.
The ability to use weapons of last resort is something Russia is boasting about now. The catchphrases on Russian state television are preparing the population for nuclear war.
Already Putin is worshiped by Russia as a Czar and a savior, even as the mass murderer Stalin is being rehabilitated. The occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968 is being praised in Russia.
The occupation of the Baltics prior to the Second World War is being justified there, as is the war with Finland and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which facilitated the launching of war in Europe in 1939. The Czech adherents of Moscow are not condemning these speeches, which means they agree with them.
Representatives of the fifth column are freely espousing their opinions with impunity today, verbally supporting Russia as it rages in Ukraine. They are exploiting the advantages of our democracy and freedom of speech.
These people are just pretending to be patriots. If they ever got into power through some combination of unfortunate circumstances, it is certain that they would never allow those opposed to them to speak freely and with impunity.
They would imprison and torture authentic patriots, they would erect a forest of gallows like the communists did after February 1948, like the Nazis did during the war. They would establish a dictatorship.
The empire anchored in their minds
Whatever territory has been trampled by the boots of the cunning Russians has always subsequently been considered a colony or at least a part of Russia's sphere of influence by the Russian sovereigns - first the Czar, then the communists, and currently the Putinists. Nations in Siberia, Central Asia, the Baltic states, Ukraine, Belarus, the Caucasus and, after the Second World War, those of us here in Central Europe all have our own stories to tell about this historical fact.
Just like the Russian sovereigns, so too many ordinary Russians have this world view coded into their subconscious today - the centuries of Czarism and 70 years of communism left their mark on them. They want the biggest possible territory, they want an empire, they want influence, they want to command other nations.
This is the shape into which their minds have been kneaded, and it's not changing. They also want our country, the Czech Republic.
If they succeed, then again many of us will be trapped in a world of lies, pressure and propaganda, a world forced on us both by those who are strangers to this land and by our own Putinists. What we are experiencing right now is not a game, it is the fight for our own future.
This article was first written in Czech for the Institute of Independent Journalism, an independent, non-profit organization and registered institute involved with information provision, news and journalism offering articles, analyses and data to all equally for use under predetermined conditions.
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