Josef Zieleniec’s speech at the international conference on the role of the USA in Central and Eastern Europe

Josef Zieleniec accepted the invitation to the international conference held on the 7th of June 2007 in Paris, concerning the role of the United States of America in Central and Eastern Europe. During his introductory speech at the conference, organised by the association Club Grande Europe, Josef Zieleniec evaluated the Russian political goals for the future and thus explained, how important the radar base in the Czech republic and Poland is for the whole Europe.


Josef ZIELENIEC’s introductory speech:

Thank you for the invitation.

Mr Zalewski is part of the ruling coalition. This is not my case in the Czech Republic. I am not a member of a current governmental party. My view is not an official Czech view of the current situation. I would like to stress that the Czech government has quite visible support not only among its own coalition with regard to the issue in question.

Today, we plan to speak about American strategy in Central Europe in connection with the deployment of the AMB system. I think that the source of the current crisis, of the current nervousness in Europe in relation to US and Russia, is not directly connected with the special American strategy in Europe or with the problems linked to the ABM system. The sources are here in Europe, in Russia, in Central Europe and also in the European Union. Mr Zalewski spoke about the Russian situation. I think I would generally support almost all of his arguments. We can see the situation in which President Putin finalized the consolidation of economic and political power in his hands. He declared that the end of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century. This was not nostalgia. This was an agenda for the future. It is clear that the Munich speech started a new era of Russian approach to the West and Putin began with very dynamic steps. I think that the future of politics in this area will be extremely complicated for us. We should realise that for hundreds of years since the beginning of the Russian state, the area of Central and Eastern Europe has been viewed by Russian rulers as the backyard, as an area of their special interest. What happened after 1989 was a tragedy not for the Communists but for the fundamental idea of Russian statehood as Russian politicians see it. It is clear that the return to the world stage, the return to global importance has to happen there, in Central Europe. There, Western and Eastern problems have traditionally met. I think that Putin in his geopolitical thinking understands this as the Russian rise to global importance. Mr Zalewski was right. An anti-missile system in Denmark would be no problem for Russia. Issues with the origin of meat in Italy would not be a problem for Russia, or a very limited problem. Moving a monument in Vienna would create protest but not an international crisis. The problem is that the battleground for Russian global importance was chosen to be here, in Central and Eastern Europe.

Why was that possible? I think that the development in Russia was one problem, one part of the picture. The other part of the picture can be seen in the European Union, in the situation after the entry of the new countries to the EU. The EU started consolidating its political structure with mixed results, where creating a real political community based on common interest has proven to be difficult. The problems in Europe after the enlargement gave rise to a situation which is viewed from Moscow as political vacuum here in Central and Eastern Europe. The Russians try to test our political will. Our ability to interpret this pressure will become evidence of Europe’s political integrity. This test has started immediately after the enlargement of the EU, with pressure especially on large EU states to start bilateral diplomacy with Moscow as a basis for relations with the European Union. The previous generations of leaders, I think of President Chirac, Chancellor Schröder, Prime Minister Berlusconi, de facto accepted these rules, returning to the post-Westphalian model of European politics based on bilateral relations among European powers. This is in sharp conflict with the very idea of European Union, based on common values and common interests. This conflict can now be seen on the table. The Samara Summit with Russia was de facto about the future of the model of relations with Russia. I think, therefore, that the unclear political will of Europe regarding Central and Eastern Europe is also being observed from within Central Europe. The presence of American interceptors and the radar in my country also attract American political interest. This was important for those who decided to enter into these talks in our country. I remember similar situation I had as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1992 to 1997. We desperately wanted to attract at least some American institutions, for example Radio Free Europe which is the radio station now broadcasting to countries like Iran, Afghanistan, etc. Before 1989 Radio Free Europe was located in Munich.

I think that we should realize that without such unclear political situation in Europe, Putin”s strategy would have had different timing – maybe also substance, but especially timing. What can we do now? I think it is extremely important for Europe to move ahead in its political consolidation, which is not only a paper problem of such documents as the Constitution. It is a problem of vision and projects which would integrate Europe politically. We can speak about an anti-missile project, a European or NATO project. We should also speak about economic projects focusing on political integration. You know how important an integral transport system or a railway system is for political integration. We should give final and decisive impulse to European satellite navigation. The situation now is absolutely unacceptable and it should be addressed through state intervention, with state or European financing. We should move money from agriculture to various projects which would integrate Europe technologically. Without that, we can sign plenty of papers but it would be very difficult to create any type of political integration capable of facing pressure from the East. And this pressure is eminent and will continue. I am convinced that it is impossible to explain to Mr Putin that the system is not aimed against Russia. I think the only path which we can follow is to further deepen the European project. I am convinced also that the giving up the ABM system would change nothing in the current European situation.

Now we have a new generation of leaders here in France, in Germany, in Italy. This is the time for a big decision, which should, however, be accompanied by specific programmes. If we want to integrate, for example, the European gas transportation system, which is an imminent problem for energy security; if we want to create one market with one regulator etc., we have to pay something. We have to say something to our big national players in that field. We cannot have the cake and eat it at the same time. We have to make a significant effort to pay for that. Without that, we will have big problems. Russia realized that as a constructive partner it is a regional power; as a destructive adversary it is a global power. And we should take this as a basis for our future decisions. Thank you.

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