by William Nattrass
Tuesday, 17
January 2023
Analysis
07:30

Peace has become a dirty word in Central Europe

Attitudes to the Ukraine war now form a major fault line on the continent
by William Nattrass
Viktor Orbán and Andrej Babiš in Prague. Credit: Getty.

The war in Ukraine has made notions of peace controversial throughout Central and Eastern Europe. In the Czech Republic, first-round presidential voting at the weekend has led to a run-off between two candidates defining themselves by their attitudes to war and peace.  

The favourite, former NATO chief Petr Pavel, is one of the country’s sternest voices in opposition to Russian aggression and influence. His opponent, former prime minister Andrej Babiš, has meanwhile opened campaigning for the second round with adverts drawing heavily on the anti-war rhetoric of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.  


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Implying that the retired general Pavel is a warmonger, Babiš’s billboards promise not to “drag the Czech Republic into war. I am a diplomat. Not a soldier.” The advert has sparked major controversy — Pavel has not expressed a wish for the Czech Republic to go to war with Russia, and the president does not have the power to declare war anyway. 

But Babiš is a wily campaigner, and he knows that, outside cosmopolitan Prague, many Czechs are unhappy with the country’s currently hawkish stance on the war and unshakeably pro-western orientation. A recent survey found that only a third of the country wants an overtly pro-western president, and some see Pavel’s unequivocal stance against Russia as symptomatic of alleged western diplomatic failings on Ukraine. 

Babiš has never questioned the rectitude of the Ukrainian cause, but the new imitation of his friend Orbán is telling. Across Central Europe, an ideological fault line has opened up between those who apportion at least some responsibility for the war to the West and those who believe the fault lies entirely with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This divide tends to mirror wider attitudes to Western institutions such as the EU and NATO. 

In this context, politicians like Babiš and Orbán imply that a neutral wish for peace is an act of popular rebellion against an out-of-touch Western elite. While the Czech vote was being counted, Orbán’s government in Hungary unveiled the results of a “national consultation” purporting to show overwhelming public opposition to Russia sanctions imposed by the EU. The results, ensured by a series of leading questions, were intended to give the impression that EU leaders are far more hawkish on Russia than the general public.  

Yet while Orbán and Babiš use the desire for peace as a political tool, their opponents display a disturbing tendency to dismiss calls for peace as unreasonable, stupid, or even dangerous. 

In one of the most controversial statements of the Czech presidential campaign so far, Pavel criticised calls for peace by declaring that “permanent peace is an illusion.” He is also fond of describing those opposed to NATO and EU membership as “extremists” — in a TV debate, he said that as president he would consider refusing to appoint members of eurosceptic and anti-NATO parties to ministerial posts, even if they formed part of a governing coalition following a general election. 

Attitudes towards the war in Ukraine are, in this way, raising even more fundamental questions about democratic values and membership of the West. Increasingly, “peace” is now becoming the most contentious word in the political lexicon.

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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
16 days ago

Interesting that there can’t be a middle ground when it comes to the war. No question that Putin is the main aggressor here, but I don’t think NATO and the US made a real effort to prevent the war. Their hands would be cleaner if they stated outright that the Ukraine could not join NATO.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
16 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I think NATO is a smokescreen from Putin to be honest. Ukraine was no closer to joining NATO than it has been for the last 20 years. What has changed however is the population had started looking to the west and the EU rather east towards Moscow. Putin was losing influence in the country and wanted to bring Ukraine back into its orbit similar to Belarus

martin logan
martin logan
16 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

As long as Putin had Crimea, legally, Ukraine couldn’t join.
What he really feared was a Ukraine (and also a south Caucasus and Central Asia) permanently outside Russian control. Then, no Russian empire.
Ironically, his invasion has insured that Russia will never dominate any of those places again. Even Kazakstan has kindly put up a “tent of invincibility” in Bucha.
We should therefore thank Putin for hammering the last nail in Imperial Russia’s coffin.

Iris C
Iris C
15 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

If the American negotiator had said that at the outset then Russia would not have had a leg to stand on. It was only after three weeks of asking for an undertaking that Ukraine would remain neutral and getting no such undertaking.that the war started.
It is for that reason that it can be thought that American-led NATO wanted a military confrontation with Russia in Europe. ..

Peter B
Peter B
15 days ago
Reply to  Iris C

Which “American negotiator” was that ? There never were any negotiations. And there never should have been. Putin made some absurd demands about NATO pulling back from parts of Eastern Europe. NATO quite rightly declined to do so. Putin has no business telling NATO who can and cannot be in the club – and as for asking them to expel existing members !
One of the best things Joe Biden did after the Russian invasion was refuse to talk to Putin. There really is no point. He’s permanently destroyed any previous goodwill or trust with anyone in Europe. There’s no way back.
Keep believing this nonsense that it’s all the fault of the US and NATO if you must. It’s a free country here and you can believe and print rubbish quite safely. Just don’t try it in Moscow.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
14 days ago
Reply to  Iris C

What American negotiator? Also Ukraine offered to discuss neutrality in the early days of the invasion, their offer was ignored.

martin logan
martin logan
16 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Welcome to an imperfect world, inhabited by imperfect people.

Last edited 16 days ago by Martin Logan
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
16 days ago

Peace is easily achieved. Russia just has to move its troops back to where they were a year ago, and not meddle in Ukrainian affairs. Why is it that those who are supposedly pushing for peace always suggest that it’s up to the Ukrainians to capitulate to Russias demands for it to happen, when it was Russia that starter the conflict and has its troops in another sovereign nation?

Steve Farrell
Steve Farrell
16 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It is odd how these dearly-held anti war principles seem pretty flexible when it comes to Russia.

Phillip Arundel
Phillip Arundel
16 days ago
Reply to  Steve Farrell

The Left have become these mad Neo-Con Warmongers. Amazing.

In fact it exactly repeats a mirror image of the WWII with the Left in UK. When Russia was an Allie of Germany (they divided up Poland, each taking half, and had divided up East Europe – but before the E Europe invasion could happen Germany invaded Russia.

Hobsbawm and daddy Milliband, and all the Commies of 1930s – 1940, were on USSR side, and thus Pacifists and against UK going to war with Germany.

Until—–Germany invaded Russia – then they were 100% pro-war. haha. never trust a Commie.

Anyway – the ‘AGENDA’, which powers all the left now – the complete subservience to the WEF, wants the war against Russia in order to to destroy Europe – so all the lefties who traditionally were anti war are just like the British Commies of the 1930s – 100% political in their blood lust.

martin logan
martin logan
16 days ago

You’re beginning to get a glimmer of understanding of how humans operate.
Keep it up! One day you will finally catch on.

M Lux
M Lux
15 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Everything about this comment is either disingenuous or just wrong, most of all that peace is easily achieved.
First of all, at this point, both the Russians and Ukrainians have shed more than enough blood to want something to show for it and the only way either will give (something) up is if they have no other choice.
Second, Ukraine has been in a tug of war between east and west since the fall of the USSR and pretending that the western-leaning elements are somehow more legitimate than the eastern-leaning ones just goes to illustrate the commenters own agenda. As in most border nations, this division has historical roots and makes for a messy narrative, so it has been replaced with the classic brainwashing program of “our guys good, their guys bad”, regardless of context.
Finally, the reason someone might expect Ukraine to give something up is because Ukraine is dependent on the west and a drag on the global (especially European) economy, not to mention a possible catalyst for WW3. On the other hand, Russia can’t be pressured into coming into negotiations much more than it already has, at least not without potentially escalating beyond the point of no return.
The Russians are the aggressor here, there’s no two ways about that, but this talk about sovereignty only seems to come into play when it’s someone other than western countries invading, so I dont find it terribly convincing when it comes from various stripes of (primarily US and UK based) warmongers. This war isn’t about Ukraine, it just happens to be in Ukraine and we are all worse off for it.

Last edited 15 days ago by M Lux
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
15 days ago
Reply to  M Lux

So because the Russians have failed in their original aims and lost lots of men, the Ukrainians should allow them to carve off a large section of their territory as a sort of consolation prize? No matter how this war finishes, Ukraine will never look to Russia again. It’s border will resemble that of the Koreas, and at best Putin will gain a few elderly ex Soviets in the east the youngsters are long gone

M Lux
M Lux
15 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

.

Last edited 14 days ago by M Lux
M Lux
M Lux
15 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Well considering the numbers both sides will still lose as the war drags on, it’s certainly not something that should be beyond consideration – wars of any kind aren’t worth it in the long run. But at what point is the destruction not worth it anymore?
I probably wouldn’t accept territorial losses at this point if I were Ukrainian, but I’m not and think this war isn’t worth the price of potential nuclear war, in addition to the already significant consequences it has had on Europe.
There’s still more to come before anyone will be willing to talk I suspect, but I doubt anyone will come out the clear winner – so it will either lead to a simmering conflict or a settlement of some kind.
The west has backed the Ukrainians and will continue to do so, but the Russians aren’t coming for anyone else anytime soon (especially not nato members) and won’t have another attempt to catch the Ukrainians unprepared. The Ukrainians for their part will be part of natos vanguard (along with Poland and the Baltics).
I do generally agree with your point on what Putin gains however, although there are some significant fossil fuel deposits in the regions the Russians took and having/keeping a buffer zone is probably the best he can hope for now.

M Lux
M Lux
15 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

.

Last edited 14 days ago by M Lux
Andrew F
Andrew F
15 days ago
Reply to  M Lux

You are just repeating Russian propaganda.
Ukraine had independence referendum in 1991.
Both Donbass and Luhansk voted over 80% for being part of independent Ukraine.
Even Crimea voted 54% for the same.
So all this talk about majority of people in occupied regions of Ukraine wanting to be part of Russia is blatant lie.

M Lux
M Lux
15 days ago
Reply to  Andrew F

First off, I didn’t say anything to the effect of this lie of yours, so maybe you should read more thoroughly.
The Ukrainian presidency regularly swapped from pro-russian to pro-western up to 2014, so I took that as a barometer for at least some sympathy for the country Ukraine was a significant part of for the majority of the 20th century. I realize being part of the USSR wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but it also wasn’t just the Holodomor, and although most Ukranians probably hate Russians now, that doesn’t make it retroactively true.
Secondly, are you seriously arguing that the ’91 referendum is binding for all of eternity? Nothing could’ve changed at least some opinions during 25 years of independence?
If the people in Donetsk and Luhansk thought that being part of independent Ukraine instead of a broken Russia is better in ’91, I totally understand that, but what if some of them changed their minds after 25 years of disappoinment? You wouldn’t have moved to Ukraine before the war I bet and a lot of Ukrainians won’t be moving back after it.
With regards to the Russian minority – they wouldn’t be the first to change their tune when conditions on the ground change (which they did in 2014) and they will have seen what the support of a powerful benefactor can do – just look at the places where the west favored a regional minority and their “right to self-determination” (aka independence). Some of these were more successful than others, but the principle is the same here.
Thanks for showing that the brainwashing is still going strong though! Can’t have some nuance with your war I guess…

Last edited 15 days ago by M Lux
Phillip Arundel
Phillip Arundel
16 days ago

‘ Across Central Europe, an ideological fault line has opened up between those who apportion at least some responsibility for the war to the West and those who believe the fault lies entirely with Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Who gives a F whose fault it is? It is a horror Show! Turn it off! Peace Now!

Look – the loss of Ukraine’s – (and Europe’s 26 fertilizer plants – closed) Fertilizer plants shut because of the scarcity of natural gas (which it is made from, strip the H from the gas Cs, and add Ns taken by compressing and separating air = fertilizer) The Russian plants are keeping much of theirs – some to China – the world will Starve! in 2023 from this. Crop yeild = fertilizer. Poor farmers around the globe cannot afford it – And there is not near enough anyway. Famine – this is the gift you warmongering Sanctions folk bring. Brazil will not get near enough – and they are the world’s soybean basket.

BUT… Then – German industry is starved for Gas – it is De-Industrializing! As is all Europe. BASF, the world’s largest chemical maker is shutting its HUGE plant in Germany and moving it in its entirety bit by bit to Louisiana USA. It has had enough. This plant is the base German manufacturing rests on – and it cannot be held to political ransom by the mad Merkel, Biden, Boris warmongering sanctions any more. It is gone – to USA! (P.S. who blew up the pipeline?)

”Jul 25, 2022July 25, 2022 In Geismar, LA, BASF is moving forward with the final phase of an expansion project for for the methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) plant at its Verbund site. The $780 million…”

USA is making so much money and power by funding this war – it is eating Europe up – selling it gas, watching the Euro crash making $ stronger, moving its manufacturing to USA – haha you sheep – this is what the war is about – it was NEVER about ‘Freedom’. It is a Globalist move to destroy the Euro – and destabilize the world. And the sheep cheer it on. Ukraine destroyed as collateral damage; but ‘oh, well’ as the warmongers say – can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.

Phillip Arundel
Phillip Arundel
16 days ago

You guys need some good Saltycracker Reeeeeeeeeee Watch it when bored – when you just cannot find something on Netflix you have not seen four times…

‘Dems & Their Pen* s Statues ReeEEeE Stream 01-15-23” TheSaltyCracker
hear every thing you may have thought but dared not say – haha, this show is 100% sheep repellent, haha. Woke people will be fainting like Victorian women startled…..Hear another side of this war…haha. He is very popular – just a guy standing there for over an hour talking on current issues……..haha, and not correctly – but he has good points, haha

https://rumble.com/v25r2om-dems-and-their-p***s-statues-reeeeee-stream-01-15-23.html

Phillip Arundel
Phillip Arundel
16 days ago

awaiting for approval – it will not allow my links…haha, freedom of speech anyone? The censor redacted the word for a male member in the link – so it would not work anyway….,..and then they sent my post to the tar pit to be swallowed up forever….

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
16 days ago

Ya. It’s not looking good for Europe. I would argue the war accelerated something that was inevitable in the long run. Europe is pricing itself out of virtually all manufacturing.

The fertilizer shortage is heartbreaking. Food prices will skyrocket in Europe and the third world will go without, which is par for the course.

martin logan
martin logan
16 days ago

Giving in to Hitler in 1940 would have saved 50-100 million lives.
FACT.
Either you support peace in 1940, or you acknowledge that we live in a world with no easy choices–and many people like Putin and Hitler, who will quite happily starve the world of fertilizer, and carry out genocide (Bucha, Irpin, Lyman, Kherson, Dnipro) if it achieves their goals.
And the only way to stop them is through force.

Last edited 16 days ago by Martin Logan
Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
16 days ago

That “diplomat” (a politician who thinks that he is clever and suave) should remember that soldiers have to fight the wars started by politicians.

Tony Price
Tony Price
15 days ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

Indeed; young men die for old men’s vanity.

martin logan
martin logan
16 days ago

Sorry, the writer totally misunderstands the situation.
All wars end with some sort of agreement, even the Korean War.
This isn’t permanent rejection of peace–it’s a negotiating tactic. In any conflict, whichever side calls for peace first will be seen as losing, which is also probably the case.
It’s only after Moscow’s next offensive fails that we can begin negotiation.
Not before.

Last edited 16 days ago by Martin Logan
Peter B
Peter B
15 days ago

If the Czechs don’t understand the need for smaller nations to stand up against the greed and aggression of larger nations, they’ll get what they deserve. They did not deserve what they got in 1938/39, 1945 or 1968 and should not be under any illusions about Russia by now.

ian wright
ian wright
15 days ago

The Czechs are under no illusions regarding the nature of their eastern neighbors – but also may be wary about being used in a proxy war between the US and Russia. After all after WWII Stepan Banderas and Mykola Lebed were employed by MI6 and the CIA respectively to continue to foment anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine with the US protecting Lebed, responsible for the massacre of up to 100,00 Poles, from prosecution for war crimes right up to his death in 1998. Look where that’s got the people of Ukraine today!