How do Americans see Eastern European countries
Officially, it's about common memory. At the end of the war 75 years ago, the liberation of the West Bohemian city of Pilsen by US troops in May 1945 and the "miracle on the Vistula" when the young Polish state successfully fought against the Red Army in 1920. The Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria and finally Poland are on the route of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on Tuesday he landed in Prague. His first way led him to Pilsen. He is due to arrive in Warsaw on Saturday.
"It is great recognition," wrote the Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček on Twitter when he visited Pompeo. Hillary Clinton last visited the Czech Republic in 2012. With partly similar plans: The USA would like the contract to build the new nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic to go to the American company Westinghouse. Pompeo just stated beforehand, "I expect it will be a very important and productive journey."
Poland is hoping for American troops if units are withdrawn from Germany
Because in addition to the memory of history, there is also something completely different: Poland is hoping for American troops if units are withdrawn from Germany. The Czech Republic can use support in simmering conflicts with Russia and is also relying on the Americans to ward off a Chinese threat of espionage. Both countries are not on the best of terms with the EU, preferring to hope for the USA, whose current leadership under Donald Trump corresponds much more to their own political style. Some politicians in Poland and the Czech Republic are practically emulating Trump.
And Pompeo, the American Secretary of State? He is looking for friends in Europe, even if they are little friends. He takes his time for that. After his visit to Pilsen on Tuesday, where he had a long discussion with his counterpart Petříček on the premises of the Pilsner brewery, he wants to meet Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and President Miloš Zeman on Wednesday, as well as the head of the state security authority. Topics will be the announced relocation of troops from Germany eastwards and the US concern to exclude the Chinese provider Huawei from expanding the 5G network. The Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar will conclude a corresponding agreement with Pompeo. It is the first US state visit to Slovenia since 2008; there has not been a meeting of foreign ministers since 1997.
The USA is also in line with the Czech Republic here. The states signed a security agreement with a view to the 5G network in May. China promptly complained and declared its "deep indignation and disappointment". Some politicians in the Czech Republic do not speak well of Russia either. In June, the Czech Republic expelled Russian diplomats. Previously, three Prague mayors had received personal protection because there should have been indications of possible poison attacks. Russia felt provoked because the statue of a Soviet marshal in Prague had been removed and the area in front of the embassy had been renamed after the murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov.
Czech President Zeman doesn’t care much about the government’s official stance. He is considered a friend of Russia and is often ridiculed as "China's press spokesman". The weekly newspaper respect hopes that his conversation with Pompeo will have an "enlightenment" effect. The inclusion of American troops is not up for discussion in the Czech Republic. Foreign ministers and prime ministers strictly rule that out. "They certainly won't come to us," Andrej Babiš told the newspaper Právo. Babiš is also reluctant to consider another US plan: the award of the contract for the construction of the planned new nuclear power plant. Companies from Russia, China and South Korea are always named as interested parties. "It is important that the competition is transparent and objective," said Babiš on Czech television. Otherwise, Babiš can be considered a fan of the Trump administration. The extremely wealthy businessman, who worked his way up to the office of head of government with a party he founded himself, has long been known as the "Czech Trump".
A designation that hardly anyone in Berlin beyond the AfD would be proud of. Otherwise, of course, nobody in the federal government can get upset that Pompeo pays a visit to many neighbors, but not Germany. Much more serious is the concern that the Trump administration (like Russia and China) could continue to work to alienate the Eastern European EU states from the rest of the Union. Sometimes with good business offers, sometimes with the promise to move US troops from Germany to Poland. This endeavor by Washington for new "topic-based alliances" is seen in Berlin as an attempt to drive the EU apart, or at least to undermine the value of the Union.
It is currently rather unlikely that a concrete decision will be made on this during this trip. That, so it is said in Berlin, is at least a small glimmer of hope.
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