Today we bring you an exclusive interview with Nigel Farage that was made by two of our authors – Jakub Janda and Ondřej Šlechta – during Mr Farage’s working visit to Prague on 16 June. As a magazine that supports a sovereign and federal Europe, our editorial team does not agree with a ‘Europe of sovereign nations,’ the idea that Mr Farage very elequently and vigorously defends, although we are in full agreement with him when it comes to criticising Europe as a technocratic and dull project that has fundamental flaws when it comes to democratic oversight. Nothwithstanding our individual views, it cannot be denied that Mr Farage is the only EU politician, who is famous all around Europe. He rightly criticised Hermann van Rompuy’s dubious mandate and equally well points out that the stream of summits is beneficial to no one, but to ‘too big to fail’ European banks, which are beneficiaries of the constant flow of taxpayers’ money. For that, his speeches on YouTube are rewarded with such high viewing rates that many other European politician could dream of. We therefore think that we should give him voice on our ‘federal pages’ and grant you the opportunity to consider his ideas.
We present to you an interview with Igor Lukes, Czech-born professor of History and International Relations at Boston University. Our correspondent Jakub Janda questioned him about Republican Primaries, role of foreign policy in American political campaigns, and the puzzlement of the Europeans over distinguishing the Republicans from Democrats.
We publish the last interview given by the late Czech President Vaclav Havel, which was given to our contributor Jakub Janda in December 2011 on the issues of civic heroism, human indifference and what turned out to be one very frustrating translation. It is exclusively available in English only at our magazine.*
Jakub Janda (JJ): When you received Prize of Jaromir Savrda last year you mentioned that „something like a dissident resistance is needed even today with different appearance and in different form“. Could you please specify what kind of appearances and forms do you have in mind?
Vaclav Havel (VH): If I spoke of a different kind of the dissident movement, it was not obviously related to the observance of civil rights and liberties ensured by constitution. In this sense the dissident movement is a thing of the past, or at least I hope so. I rather had on mind civic engagement as resistance against human indifference, civic apathy or bureaucratic bullying.
JJ: Do you think that engagement with civil society is a challenge for today’s youth? What is the source of the contempt of some Czech politicians for civil society and civic initiatives?
VH: Civic engagement comes naturally to young people. For the coming generation it is an inherent part of their social attitude, which sets them apart from the generation of their parents and grandparents, who were growing up under a totalitarian regime. Civil society is met with contempt especially at those politicians, who perhaps speak of freedom, but actually fear manifestations of citizens’ will and see them as a threat to their power and influence.
JJ: Where do you see a line beyond which it is necessary to face evil with force? Your reservations about some activities of the third resistance [the editor’s note: an overarching term used for the Czechoslovak anti-communist resistance movement between 1948 and 89] are well known, yet you also received criticism for your support of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
VH: That needs to be considered from a case to case; there is no ready-made solution available and it is necessary to use all means to prevent such a strike from happening. Nevertheless, it cannot be ruled out in advance as we would thus show that we are not willing to fight off evil. The international community decided on the strike in former Yugoslavia only after ten years of intensive, but unsuccessful negotiations that especially the Milosevic’s regime had used in perpetrating new atrocities and ethnic cleansing. Notwithstanding the humanitarian catastrophe and war suffering it was a tough decision. I naturally have not ever pronounced that statement on humanitarian bombing which is attributed to me. That nonsense appeared in the follow-up of multiple translations. I said that the reasons for the strike had been humanitarian, because there had been on-going massacres and expulsions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and million refugees had been on move in Kosovo.
JJ: What means to you the cooperation of the Czech and Polish dissent?
VH: Czechoslovak-Polish solidarity, trans-border cooperation and meetings on the frontier had a crucial significance as an entirely new experience. And not just for our dissent, but also for communist rulers. Moscow counted that there will be revolts in satellite countries from time to time – as in Hungary of 1956, Czechoslovakia of 1968 or Poland of 1980. But for national opposition movements to cooperate that was a new element and a cause of great fears for the communist power.
Thank you for the interview,
* Translated from Czech by Stanislav Maselnik.
Interview conducted by Czech political analyst Jakub Janda with respected security expert Tomas Valasek on the question of European defense, Libya, and the future of NATO in the light of the decline of American support.
In your recent study, Surviving Austerity – The Case for a New Approach to EU Military Collaboration, you argue that European countries should be looking to mitigate the effects of financial pressures by pooling military resources with like-minded nations, creating “islands of co-operation”. Could you give us a brief analysis what would it mean in the real world environment?
European countries have too few soldiers with the right skills and equipment. While there are many reasons for this – for example, the Europeans spend less per soldier than the Americans do – chiefly, the Europeans underperform because with 27 different governments managing, equipping and commanding 27 militaries they never enjoy economies of scale when buying and maintaining equipment or training soldiers. My study proposes that European armed forces start doing so together, and that they pool their bases, schools, maintenance facilities etc. They should not do so at the basis of all 27 EU countries, but among small groups of governments that know and trust each other. In fact, some, such as the Belgians and the Dutch, are already doing so.
You also mentioned, that, there is still a lot of hardware in our (European) arsenals that frankly we have inherited and we don’t really know what to do with. Nowadays many critics say that current European arsenal cannot be effectively compatible with the US Military technology in joint operations, such as NATO interaction in Libya. Is it really that crucial?
NATO’s biggest challenge is not whether the Europeans and the Americans have compatible forces and technology. The greatest problem is that the Europeans have fewer and fewer forces to send to common operations. The Americans have steadily increased their defense budget over the past decade; the Europeans have, on average, decreased it each year. Overtime, a gulf has grown that the Americans find, for good reasons, politically unacceptable. The Europeans are unlikely to start spending more money on their militaries anytime soon – not when the economic crisis here is even more severe than in the US. But what the Europeans can and must do if they want to keep the Americans engaged in NATO is to spend their money more wisely. That means getting rid of some unneeded Cold War equipment, and collaborating on procurement, maintenance, training etc.
In his speech to the NATO ministers of defense, retiring US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pointed out that the USA covers free fourths of the NATO budget and is nor able nor willing to continue in such trend. Does such statement support your argument that Europe should start taking care of its security? Could you expand your arguments what should European countries do?
For the time being, the United States remains the indispensable ally, committed to defend Europe if necessary. But their attitudes are changing: the Americans no longer want to lead ‘wars of choice’ on Europe’s periphery; those fought in the name of human rights (such as the one in Libya). This is partly because US interests have moved elsewhere, to Asia and the Middle East, but also because American politicians and defence officials have come to feel that European countries are not taking the security of their own continent seriously enough. The allies have big economies and capable militaries, and in the future the Pentagon will expect them to be able to assure security of Europe’s periphery with little US help.
Since we talked about some aspects of European security, could you comment on current situation in Ukraine? Does it pose a threat to European security any aspect, especially in energetic strategies of the EU?
Russia and Ukraine are tussling over control of Ukraine’s gas pipelines so yes, another gas war is possible and would be bad for the EU. But this is a problem partly of our own making: some of the governments in Europe’s east have failed to invest in alternatives sources of energy to Russian gas. I am frustrated with Ukraine for a different reason: this should be a prosperous place and an important trading partner to the Central Europeans. Ukraine is a large country with a well-educated workforce and mineral and agricultural wealth. If it were better managed, it would be a lot richer – and all of Central Europe would benefit. Eastern parts of Poland, Hungary and Slovakia – some of the poorest parts of Central Europe – should in principle be booming and growing from trade with Ukraine. But they are not, mostly because Ukraine has been governed by crooks for most of its independence.
Thank you for your time,
Tomas Valasek is Director of Foreign policy & Defence at the London-based think tank Centre for European Reform. He has written extensively on transatlantic relations, common European foreign and security policy and on defence industry issues. He is also a senior advisor to the Brussels office of the World Security Institute.
Previously, he served as Policy Director and head of the Security and Defence Policy Division at the Slovak Ministry of Defence.