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Czech president calls for mass surveillance of Russian nationals

Petr Pavel cited America's harsh treatment of Japanese residents during WWII as a precedent

June 15, 2023 - 5:00pm

Czech President Petr Pavel has called for ordinary Russian nationals living in the West to be the subjects of a new system of mass monitoring by security services. His incendiary comments in an interview with Radio Free Europe, published today, even appear to posit draconian restrictions visited upon citizens of Axis countries in the West during World War Two as good practice that could now be applied to Russians. Pavel said:

When there is an ongoing war, security measures relating to Russian nationals should be stricter than in normal times. All Russians living in western countries should be monitored much more than in the past, because they are citizens of a nation that leads an aggressive war.

The Czech President, who was formerly the chairman of NATO’s military committee, then cited the U.S.A.’s famously harsh treatment of Japanese residents following Pearl Harbor as a precedent for the state surveillance of nationalities perceived as a security threat. More than 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes and live in internment camps throughout the rest of WWII, something for which the U.S. government later apologised and paid reparations, describing the incarcerations as the result of “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.” 

Pavel gave the impression that he thinks something similar is now worth considering. “When we look back, when the Second World War started, all of the Japanese population living in the United States were under a strict monitoring regime as well. That’s simply the cost of war,” he reasoned. Asked what a monitoring regime for Russians would look like, Pavel responded without elaboration that he wants all Russians to be “under the scrutiny of the security services.” 

This isn’t the first time Pavel has expressed strong concerns about Russians living in the West. In an interview which I conducted with him during the Czech presidential campaign at the end of 2022, he told me western countries should be wary of Russians fleeing Putin’s mobilisation, as welcoming tens of thousands of Russian men would pose “a risk to our internal security.”  

A hawkish attitude on the Ukraine war was central to his election as president, but it divided the nation. Supporters in the Czech political and media class see him as a bullish leader on the right side of history, while opponents describe him as a warmonger. Having helped to lead NATO negotiations with Russia during a glittering military career, his attitude can be uncompromising — he rejects calling the invasion of Ukraine “Putin’s war,” for example, seeing this as an attempt to absolve ordinary Russians of responsibility. 

His views are in keeping with those of the Czech government, which has been vociferous in calling for more punitive measures against Russians. A failed attempt last year to persuade the EU to ban all visas for Russians followed on from a decision by the Czech authorities to stop issuing new visas to Russians from only the second day of the war. This opened the floodgates for other restrictive actions throughout society, with universities and private companies refusing services to Russians and Belarusians if they refused to condemn the invasion.  

The McCarthyite atmosphere has dissipated somewhat in recent months, but Pavel’s harsh comments raise the possibility of new restrictions. As his own reference to the treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII proves, this is a slippery slope, running contrary to the principles of liberty and equality that underpin the western way of life. More worryingly still, it suggests that in their eagerness to support Ukraine, some western leaders are prematurely acting on a wartime mindset.


William Nattrass is a British journalist based in Prague and news editor of Expats.cz

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JP Martin
JP Martin
1 year ago

Chinese nationals should be the higher priority, frankly.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  JP Martin

There are. We allow hundreds of thousands of them to study in the West and still our technology.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew F
Steve White
Steve White
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Everyone knows that the Chinese steal everything they can get their hands on. The US government has known that for a long time. They haven’t done anything about it. Because money flows into their pockets from China. Joe Biden has made a lot of Chinese money. The things they do are a game. War is a game to these people. They make sure they themselves and their family are taken care of. 
The fecklessness of Western leadership is because they are corrupt. They are not people of character, or with strong beliefs in things. They really don’t have principles, and without principles and morals it is not possible to lead a nation into a blessed future. The fact is that they are too busy spying on people like me and you, and making sure they are gaining and holding on to power. Remember, everything is about them, not about the nations and the people they are supposed to represent.
The real threat in the eyes of leadership is domestic. The real threat is misinformation, and misinformation is anything they don’t want you to think, or say. They don’t want you thinking for yourself. If you think for yourself, you need to arrive at conclusions they want you to. Which are things that support what they want to do, or they want to have happen.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve White
Steve White
Steve White
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Everyone knows that the Chinese steal everything they can get their hands on. The US government has known that for a long time. They haven’t done anything about it. Because money flows into their pockets from China. Joe Biden has made a lot of Chinese money. The things they do are a game. War is a game to these people. They make sure they themselves and their family are taken care of. 
The fecklessness of Western leadership is because they are corrupt. They are not people of character, or with strong beliefs in things. They really don’t have principles, and without principles and morals it is not possible to lead a nation into a blessed future. The fact is that they are too busy spying on people like me and you, and making sure they are gaining and holding on to power. Remember, everything is about them, not about the nations and the people they are supposed to represent.
The real threat in the eyes of leadership is domestic. The real threat is misinformation, and misinformation is anything they don’t want you to think, or say. They don’t want you thinking for yourself. If you think for yourself, you need to arrive at conclusions they want you to. Which are things that support what they want to do, or they want to have happen.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve White
Steve White
Steve White
1 year ago
Reply to  JP Martin

So, you have to kill freedom to preserve freedom? When you start putting people on lists, and making people second class because you’re told to fear them, it’s really the ones that tell you to fear them and that want to put people on lists, or single groups out to make them second class citizens that are the real monsters that you should be fearing. That’s the real threat. The fearmongers are the warmongers. Remember they aren’t for peace. When peace talks were underway that got crushed. We need to remember that. That at this point all of this is a choice of the West, and mainly the USA. None of what has transpired is in the best interests of European nations.
This leader is a creep! 

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve White
Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  JP Martin

There are. We allow hundreds of thousands of them to study in the West and still our technology.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew F
Steve White
Steve White
1 year ago
Reply to  JP Martin

So, you have to kill freedom to preserve freedom? When you start putting people on lists, and making people second class because you’re told to fear them, it’s really the ones that tell you to fear them and that want to put people on lists, or single groups out to make them second class citizens that are the real monsters that you should be fearing. That’s the real threat. The fearmongers are the warmongers. Remember they aren’t for peace. When peace talks were underway that got crushed. We need to remember that. That at this point all of this is a choice of the West, and mainly the USA. None of what has transpired is in the best interests of European nations.
This leader is a creep! 

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve White
JP Martin
JP Martin
1 year ago

Chinese nationals should be the higher priority, frankly.

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
1 year ago

It’s curious that despite Russia not having really been a democracy for at least the past 15 years, many people seem more comfortable blaming ordinary Russians for the Ukraine invasion than they were blaming ordinary Americans or Brits for invading Iraq or the chaos that ensued following regime change in Libya for example, despite the US/GB being democracies.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

1939:
“It’s curious that despite Germany not having really been a democracy for at least the past 15 years, many people seem comfortable blaming ordinary Germans for their invasions.”
Always true…

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago

Maybe it has something to do with 80% of Russians supporting invasion of Ukraine?

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

1. Even if the poll data was accurate, how many of these such Russians live in the Czech Republic?
2.In 2003 polls suggested something like 90pc Americans supported invading Iraq. Assuming the polling was accurate, would it have been justified for other states to put all Americans under surveillance lest they be warmongers?

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

1. Even if the poll data was accurate, how many of these such Russians live in the Czech Republic?
2.In 2003 polls suggested something like 90pc Americans supported invading Iraq. Assuming the polling was accurate, would it have been justified for other states to put all Americans under surveillance lest they be warmongers?

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

1939:
“It’s curious that despite Germany not having really been a democracy for at least the past 15 years, many people seem comfortable blaming ordinary Germans for their invasions.”
Always true…

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago

Maybe it has something to do with 80% of Russians supporting invasion of Ukraine?

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
1 year ago

It’s curious that despite Russia not having really been a democracy for at least the past 15 years, many people seem more comfortable blaming ordinary Russians for the Ukraine invasion than they were blaming ordinary Americans or Brits for invading Iraq or the chaos that ensued following regime change in Libya for example, despite the US/GB being democracies.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

Because a supposedly free, liberal, and democratic society spying on all the citizens of a foreign country that said free, liberal, and democratic country is not fighting a war against… is totally normal.
We keep saying this war is between Ukraine and Russia and criticizing Russia when they say the war is between them and the West overall. But actions speak louder than words.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

The war is between the West and Russia, which is trying to weaken and then destroy it.
Where have you been the last year and a half?

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

The war is between the West and Russia, which is trying to weaken and then destroy it.
Where have you been the last year and a half?

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

Because a supposedly free, liberal, and democratic society spying on all the citizens of a foreign country that said free, liberal, and democratic country is not fighting a war against… is totally normal.
We keep saying this war is between Ukraine and Russia and criticizing Russia when they say the war is between them and the West overall. But actions speak louder than words.

David Mayes
David Mayes
1 year ago

As I understand a strong majority of Russians support the invasion of Ukraine. Historically the Czechs have had some nasty first-hand experiences with the Russians so equating this to McCarthyism is a stretch.
I wonder if Ukraine is monitoring Russian nationals in their country or if the Russian government is keeping an eye on Ukranian nationals in Russia?

David Mayes
David Mayes
1 year ago

As I understand a strong majority of Russians support the invasion of Ukraine. Historically the Czechs have had some nasty first-hand experiences with the Russians so equating this to McCarthyism is a stretch.
I wonder if Ukraine is monitoring Russian nationals in their country or if the Russian government is keeping an eye on Ukranian nationals in Russia?

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

A tempest in a teapot.
I suspect any Russian who is a threat has been monitored for some time already.

Last edited 1 year ago by martin logan
Sarolta RĂłnai
Sarolta RĂłnai
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

The point here is that the leader of a Western country fully aligned with so-called “European values” proposes to send people behind barbed wire based on their origin (and this is not reported in any major newspaper and no European politicians express their outrage).

O. R.
O. R.
1 year ago

He said “monitor”, do you have a problem with reading comprehension, or a are you intentionally obtuse? Oh, I forgot, you are Hungarian, the country whose leader, Orbán, is a paragon of democratic virtues who, by the way, wishes to annex large territories of neighbouring countries as he calls for the revision of the Trianon Accords.

And yes mentioning American Japanese in WWII is incendiary. But I wonder how many lives it saved because no such Japanese could report sensitive information to Japan (through neutral countries like Argentina, Switzerland or Sweden).

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

I suspect Pavel has only a hazy idea of what happened to Japanese-Americans in WW2.
But having been occupied by a regime just as ruthless as Putin, he is probably rather concerned about security.

O. R.
O. R.
1 year ago

He said “monitor”, do you have a problem with reading comprehension, or a are you intentionally obtuse? Oh, I forgot, you are Hungarian, the country whose leader, Orbán, is a paragon of democratic virtues who, by the way, wishes to annex large territories of neighbouring countries as he calls for the revision of the Trianon Accords.

And yes mentioning American Japanese in WWII is incendiary. But I wonder how many lives it saved because no such Japanese could report sensitive information to Japan (through neutral countries like Argentina, Switzerland or Sweden).

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

I suspect Pavel has only a hazy idea of what happened to Japanese-Americans in WW2.
But having been occupied by a regime just as ruthless as Putin, he is probably rather concerned about security.

Sarolta RĂłnai
Sarolta RĂłnai
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

The point here is that the leader of a Western country fully aligned with so-called “European values” proposes to send people behind barbed wire based on their origin (and this is not reported in any major newspaper and no European politicians express their outrage).

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

A tempest in a teapot.
I suspect any Russian who is a threat has been monitored for some time already.

Last edited 1 year ago by martin logan
Will K
Will K
1 year ago

The war in Ukraine is war between the US and Russian Governments. That it came to a war, is due to a failure of Government diplomacy. The individual citizens on each side played no part, and should be treated with respect. The individual soldiers on each side are dupes, and should also be treated with kindness.

Will K
Will K
1 year ago

The war in Ukraine is war between the US and Russian Governments. That it came to a war, is due to a failure of Government diplomacy. The individual citizens on each side played no part, and should be treated with respect. The individual soldiers on each side are dupes, and should also be treated with kindness.

Steve White
Steve White
1 year ago

Creepy dude. His rival in the election was right. This ex-general is a war monger type.

Steve White
Steve White
1 year ago

Creepy dude. His rival in the election was right. This ex-general is a war monger type.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

Scary, creepy stuff. I’m sure the EU loves this guy. The real racist and threat to democracy is Viktor Orban though.

Peter Caswell
Peter Caswell
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Why is someone who wants to protect his country from foreigners a racist?
The overuse of the word by the likes of you mave now made it meaningless.

O. R.
O. R.
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Caswell

The terms racist/nazi have. been indeed overused to the point when they have become useless.
On the other hand, Orban has consistently pursued meny policies that aid and abbett Russians in their war. And on top f that keeps reviving sentiments that large regions of their neighbours belong to Hungary. On a recent visit to see the Slovakian President he wore a shawl with a map of Greater Hungary from pre WWI times. That’s akin to Mexican president visiting his US.counterpart and wearng a shawl with the map of Mexico with Texas, California and Florida in it. Would cause quite a stir, wouldn’t it? 😉

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Caswell

I was trying to be sarcastic.

O. R.
O. R.
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Caswell

The terms racist/nazi have. been indeed overused to the point when they have become useless.
On the other hand, Orban has consistently pursued meny policies that aid and abbett Russians in their war. And on top f that keeps reviving sentiments that large regions of their neighbours belong to Hungary. On a recent visit to see the Slovakian President he wore a shawl with a map of Greater Hungary from pre WWI times. That’s akin to Mexican president visiting his US.counterpart and wearng a shawl with the map of Mexico with Texas, California and Florida in it. Would cause quite a stir, wouldn’t it? 😉

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Caswell

I was trying to be sarcastic.

Peter Caswell
Peter Caswell
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Why is someone who wants to protect his country from foreigners a racist?
The overuse of the word by the likes of you mave now made it meaningless.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

Scary, creepy stuff. I’m sure the EU loves this guy. The real racist and threat to democracy is Viktor Orban though.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

Isn’t it nice to live in countries where, if an official says or does something you disagree with, you can always change things at the next election?
Pavel has made a suggestion. But he won’t be the one to decide this.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

Isn’t it nice to live in countries where, if an official says or does something you disagree with, you can always change things at the next election?
Pavel has made a suggestion. But he won’t be the one to decide this.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago

Second Nazi: Have you noticed that our caps actually have little pictures of skulls on them?
Hans: I don’t… er-
Second Nazi: Hans… are we the baddies?

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago

Second Nazi: Have you noticed that our caps actually have little pictures of skulls on them?
Hans: I don’t… er-
Second Nazi: Hans… are we the baddies?

O. R.
O. R.
1 year ago

The oversensitive Western humanists have not yet noticed that the West is at war and under attack. Although we are not at the frontlines, our role is just what Australia’s and US mainland’s roles were in WWII.
Mentioning American Japanese might have been a tad rough, since the Czech President called only for monitoring of the Russians, not rounding them up and putting them in camps.
On the other hand, let me remind you that Ukraine is surviving and winning largely thanks to Western support. And that very support was recently being torpedoed by pro-Russian elements in France in a large-scale disinformation campaign. Does anybody doubt that Russia is trying to subvert and destabilize European democracies?
See: https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/french-foreign-minister-prevented-attack-website-likely-carried-out-by-russian-2023-06-13/

O. R.
O. R.
1 year ago

The oversensitive Western humanists have not yet noticed that the West is at war and under attack. Although we are not at the frontlines, our role is just what Australia’s and US mainland’s roles were in WWII.
Mentioning American Japanese might have been a tad rough, since the Czech President called only for monitoring of the Russians, not rounding them up and putting them in camps.
On the other hand, let me remind you that Ukraine is surviving and winning largely thanks to Western support. And that very support was recently being torpedoed by pro-Russian elements in France in a large-scale disinformation campaign. Does anybody doubt that Russia is trying to subvert and destabilize European democracies?
See: https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/french-foreign-minister-prevented-attack-website-likely-carried-out-by-russian-2023-06-13/

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
1 year ago

It’s got nothing to do with Ukraine. Czech has long been a stronghold of the Russian Mafia, their McMafia. Czechs are fed up.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
1 year ago

It’s got nothing to do with Ukraine. Czech has long been a stronghold of the Russian Mafia, their McMafia. Czechs are fed up.