by William Nattrass
Monday, 5
September 2022
Dispatch
18:09

Pro-Ukraine sentiment is crumbling in Eastern Europe

Discontent is building in countries that were once most committed to the cause
by William Nattrass
“Czech Republic First” calls for the resumption of energy cooperation with Russia” (Credit: CRUX/YouTube)

Prague, Czech Republic

Discontent is slowly building in some of the European countries most committed to supporting Ukraine. Slovakia’s coalition government is splintering, while a huge protest in Prague this weekend rammed home the severity of Czech divisions on the war as economic crisis hits.

The Slovak coalition is collapsing due to bitter infighting over financial support amid the cost-of-living crunch. The liberal Freedom and Solidarity party departed from government on Monday after accusing the leader of the largest governing party of “raping the legislative process” from his position as Minister of Finance. Most do not expect a minority government to survive, so snap elections are likely.

This would leave the door open for an opposition led by Robert Fico, a man placed by Ukraine on its blacklist of pro-Kremlin “propagandists” in the West. Fico has complained that “everyone with a different opinion than the Ukrainian President is a criminal. That’s what liberal democracy is like.”

Meanwhile in the Czech Republic, 70,000 protesters on Saturday called for a reversal of attitudes to Ukraine and Russia. The rally, titled “Czech Republic First”, called for the resumption of energy cooperation with Russia, Czech military neutrality between West and East, and the regaining of political sovereignty from the EU — a policy programme owing much to Viktor Orbán. It also demanded institutional change at national broadcasters whose political coverage is felt to be biased.

The Czech establishment was stunned by the scale of the protest on Prague’s Wenceslas Square, and the response of Prime Minister Petr Fiala encapsulated an apparent metropolitan disdain for the concerns of rural Czechs frightened by the energy crisis. He said the event was “called by forces that are pro-Russian, are close to extremist positions, and are against the interests of the Czech Republic”. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry meanwhile described the rally as an “insult” to “the honour and dignity of Ukrainians who are defending freedom in Europe at the cost of their lives”.

Yet unease about the level of economic, military and social support being provided to Ukraine has been widespread in rural areas ever since the war began. Protesters want the government to resign by September 25; if new elections are not called, they promise another rally on September 28 and threaten acts of civil disobedience as well as some form of general strike. If an early election was held, polls suggest that, as in Slovakia, it would be won by forces sceptical about current western policy on Ukraine. Fiala enjoys the trust of a measly 22% of the Czech population and the more Eurosceptic opposition is forecast to sweep to victory in local elections this month.

As Czech and Slovak governments flounder, early elections elsewhere in Europe may deal further democratic blows to the Ukrainian cause. Bulgaria will hold snap elections in October following the ousting of a pro-Nato leader who took an unusually tough stance against Moscow, while the Right-wing coalition tipped for success in Italian elections includes parties openly critical of the EU’s sanctions policy.

As Ukraine wages a counteroffensive with western weapons, governments which helped provide that military aid now face a winter of discontent. By standing so resolutely with Kyiv they have won international praise; but they have also brought down a domestic political storm on their own heads.

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Vít Samohýl
Vít Samohýl
20 days ago

As a Czech I disagree that consensus on Ukraine is crumbling, this has nothing really to do with Ukraine. When Czechs ousted Babiš in elections late last year, they knew the new government will not solve anything, they are the same guys from previous years. But they exceeded expectations…in the wrong direction. They are like Joe Biden. They have mouth full of democracy, but in fact are hardcore lockdowners and censors of anything vaguely opposed to their propaganda media picture. They will just keep saying everything is Russia’s fault and we will hear no end of this, but we know exactly how it is.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
20 days ago
Reply to  Vít Samohýl

Interesting nuance, thanks

James Billot
James Billot
19 days ago
Reply to  Vít Samohýl

Ahoj Vit, thank you for your interesting comment. I’m also glad to see that UnHerd has made it out to your plot of land!
Out of interest, you say that this has nothing to do with Ukraine, but it seemed like a lot of the protests were centred on exactly that. Are you suggesting that the protests do not reflect mainstream opinion on Ukraine? Is it basically an anti-govt protest under the guise of Ukraine? I’d be interested to know whether Czech Republicans would want to maintain their country’s current level of support for Ukraine even with a new government.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
19 days ago
Reply to  Vít Samohýl

Thanks Vit. I read a lot of Eastern European news sites and the picture described by the writer isn’t at all consistent with what I’m seeing – if anything the Eastern European support for Ukraine is growing stronger, and their Russophobia is becoming more extreme.

Jeff Andrews
Jeff Andrews
19 days ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I think that’s Poland and the Baltic statelets you’re talking about, nothing new there. By the way the Americans have told the Baltics to be quiet. The rest of us are sick and tired of ruining our economy’s over a bunch of bigots and criminals in Kiev.

Lisa I
Lisa I
20 days ago

It certainly is a strange war. Celebrities and politicians flying in and out of the Kyiv and 3rd party countries encouraging Ukraine to keep fighting. Plus, the idea that all of Europe should impoverish itself for the sake of one country that we have no alliance with is strange, to say the least.

Arjen van der Schoot
Arjen van der Schoot
20 days ago
Reply to  Lisa I

Total defeat of either side seems unlikely at this point, everyone seems to have forgotten that the only way out of the conflict is negotiating an end to it. With all sides, including those emotionally allied to the conflict, losing out, my hope is that celebrities, politicians and media remind all parties to start this negotiation now.

Aaron James
Aaron James
19 days ago

Given that a very great part of this war was as a distraction to Biden’s inflation caused by his insane covid response; I think it safe to say after the Midterm Elections in November 8 this year, some agreement will be reached.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
19 days ago
Reply to  Lisa I

It’s not for the sake of one country though, is it Lisa? Otherwise, why would Sweden and Finland have given up decades of neutrality to join NATO?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
19 days ago

And Poland, Estonia et all are absolutely ramping up their military support and border defences, and hitting on Russian cultural emblems too. The Ukrainians ain’t alone – Eastern Europe is proving to be a real thorn in the side of the self serving EU behemoths who would accommodate Russian expansion at their expense, like they did before.

Lovely to see their unity, and it might help out the UK too, since we actively support their military, when the trade war with the EU is threatened over Northern Ireland.

Aaron James
Aaron James
19 days ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

”Lovely to see their unity, and it might help out the UK too”

Right, because the BofE loaning for the printing of another Trillion to cover increased energy costs resulting from this, and the Billions in arms and cash to support Ukraine – that will have to be printed too ——— and then the debt costing more from the increased payment from raising the interest rates to fight inflation ————- which will not lower inflation because this extra money printing will raise inflation even higher ——– so the Treasury will have to raise interests rates higher ———– so the BofE loan more money to the Gov in a financial death spiral.

Yea, it might help the UK, if by help you mean destroy everyone’s pensions and savings and cause real wages declining…..

martin logan
martin logan
19 days ago

The simple fact is that the nations of Europe have never allowed a single power to dominate the Continent. From Henry V to the Soviets, that principle has held true.
And every European leader knows that–even if some “Realists” have never really understood what “Balance of Power” really means.

Aaron James
Aaron James
20 days ago

Getting into this war was USA’s worst mistake since WWI.

This supply of high tech intelligence and even targeting info in real time (must be guys on the ground), Billions $ and Billions $ of high tech weapons, dozens of Billions of $ to go right into the pockets of the Oligarchs, and dozens Billions of $ to fund the war has been a horrible disaster. The result of our enabling this fight is death and destruction for nothing good – lots bad though. This battle turned into a years long war unless we stop it.

If Ukraine stood alone and just gave up – what then? Putin would have executed or imprisoned the Oligarchs, replaced them with his puppets, and the nation would continue as a subject land for a wile – but intact. Jobs for the people to go to, schools open, factories and business open, infrastructure in place, housing and the rest of the buildings still standing, wheat planted and harvested, fertilizer exported, petroleum and gas and mines working…

Then – the sanctions! Stopping SWIFT! May mean the total debasing of the USA Dollar if Reserve Currency is lost. Fuel, minerals, ag products, everything destroying the already Self Wrecked global economy from the Insane covid lockdowns and zero interest and Trillions and Trillions of monetary and Fiscal $ conjured out of air to become debt, and in the process cause this inflation which will kill the working and middle class – devour their savings, pensions, Stocks, and keep wages below real inflation, so wages declining in real terms.

To put it simply – this crime against the world was USA and its lackeys first baiting Ukraine with promises of joining NATO, and the EU, then when Russia invaded as everyone know they would – and then us all getting into the thick of some regional war which was NONE OF OUR BUSINESS, and thereby wrecking the global economy, and causing Billions of global people to drop down into Abject Poverty, starving…

Then – Driving Russia into China’s sphere, Bringing about the BRICS and Iran, Venezuela, Petro States, and China aligning and the West camp being isolated – and the goal of a new Reserve Currency begun….

This is the result of us ‘Assisting Ukraine’. We destroyed it, and the global economy, and gave USA 70 Billion more debt, and then the Ukrainians want $700,000,000,000 to rebuild! And think USA will give it to them! No way, think the EU will? Ha! – they are wrecked, and good luck…

You silly sheep, flying your Ukraine flags – you were on the side of global destruction – good sheep like the WEF wanted you to be.

Peter B
Peter B
20 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Getting into this war was Russia’s second biggest mistake since WWII. After Afghanistan. But could yet become the biggest.
A pitiful, incoherent rant attempting to defend the indefensible. Victim blaiming – i.e., blaming Ukraine for a was Russia started – is shameful. Grow up.

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
19 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Well said, spot on Aaron. Unfortunately the Ukraine flag wavers are utterly clueless about the very high level power plays. Ironically they can buy the book(WEF bible?) written by Klaus Schwab on Amazon if they could tear themselves away from the utter lies in the MSM.
You forgot to mention the missiles that the Ukraine government has been raining down on the Donesk and Lugansk regions for the last 8 years and the memorials to all the dead children they have. A fact that Russia has been complaining about in the UN for years but the West has ignored them. IMHO the war started in 2014 when the Minsk agreement was broken by Zelensky.
Then there’s the NAzi element. All that Nazi insignia on the clothing of the Azof regiment. They even flew a Swastika for publicity photos for gods sake !!! But the sheep will put their hands over their eyes and call the likes of you and I tin foil hat conspiracists.

martin logan
martin logan
19 days ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

Putin failed because, instead of holding a referendum in Donbas, and separating them from Ukraine, he wanted to use them as a way of controlling all of Ukraine.
It was a lunatic idea, along the same lines as invading in Feb.
And of course, the idea that all Putin’s foes are “[email protected]@s is quite ridiculous. It stems either from Kremlin propaganda, or gross ignorance of a nation of 40 million.

Last edited 19 days ago by Martin Logan
John Dellingby
John Dellingby
19 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

How was America getting involved in WW1 a “mistake”? It came out of it one of the most powerful nations in the world and shaped the peace process, often being able to force the British and French to change their positions.

martin logan
martin logan
19 days ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

They seem to have been committing that “mistake” for the last 100 years.

martin logan
martin logan
19 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

“Then, when Russia invaded, as everyone know they would…”
Pls cite who was saying this prior to the war.
Almost no one said this–precisely because this was the stupidest move any nation’s leader has made in the last 80 years.
Zelensky was elected by Russophones in the South and East–to bring peace. The moment Putin invaded, the whole country was united.
Putin’s error was on a cosmic scale.

martin logan
martin logan
19 days ago
Reply to  Claire D

Sorry “ready for war” and “predicting war” are two very different things. I only know of a few western military analysts that correctly predicted Putin’s invasion. And even fewer who thought Putin was stupid enough to try and take Kyiv.

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
19 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Take a very deep breath, and your trembling fist off the CAPS LOCK key.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
19 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Hard to say how much of this I found impossible to agree with. Ukraine since leaving the USSR has been struggling for a long time because of an excess of those oligarchs. They seemed to be improving with the election of Zelensky who was supported by those oligarchs, but was dealing with them. He seemed to be trying to develop the nation to stop the flood of youth leaving for other places. The Russian stealth attacks in 2014 took advantage of a weak nation with no ability to counter. Russia has tried to exploit internal conflicts but failing at that, decided to openly invade. Ukraine has asked others to help protect it’s independence. Wars are messy expensive wastes that Russia has imposed on the world and must be stopped.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
19 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Totally disagree, on so many points I can’t be bothered to write about but one: This war is fantastic for the USA. Watching Russia grind itself down to irrelevance economically and militarily – and allowing them to focus afterwards on the greater threat of China, alone.

Putin is just digging his country into a deeper and deeper hole – let him do it. The Ukrainian Spartans are defending at Thermopylae valiantly to win this great strategic outcome for the west, and their sacrifice is tragic.

Aaron James
Aaron James
19 days ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I have argued this a lot – the biggest harm to Ukraine in long term is the 4 million child age woman and their children who have fled. History shows only two thirds, or some greatly reduced number, will return from fleeing war. There are not like the waves of single young men fleeing the ME war (who were leaving a better place by their absence) These are the future of the demographically challenged region.

They can rebuild the buildings, but losing those young people will be the irreplaceable loss. Stopping this alone was worth not going to war for the Ukraine.

Jeff Andrews
Jeff Andrews
19 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

I agree with every word. You’ve even got the WEF sheep triggered judging by the comments!

Andrew Vigar
Andrew Vigar
19 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Andrews

Red pills are hard to swallow 😉

John McKee
John McKee
19 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Yes indeed!

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
19 days ago

Interesting to learn that the cost of living crisis is wobbling governments elsewhere in Europe. You won’t hear it from the British MSM, who want voters to believe things here are uniquely bad.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Eastern Europe, relations between Poland and Ukraine are better than they’ve ever been in the history of the Polish state and you won’t find the Baltic States going soft anytime soon.

martin logan
martin logan
19 days ago

As long as weapons can be shipped via Poland, Putin can’t win.

Adam McDermont
Adam McDermont
19 days ago

Perhaps its the recent memory of living under totalitarian regimes that impel Eastern European populations to fight for their interests. I can only imagine the shocking provocation it would take for Western Europeans to do the same.
A net zero agenda is insane at this time. Perhaps net zero is an attainable goal but not over night.
Perhaps NATO willed the war to enable the enlargement of state apparatus that the energy crisis and concomitant civil unrest will allow.
The Heritage Site | Adam McDermont | Substack

martin logan
martin logan
19 days ago

The Real Point is:
It doesn’t matter.
Now that Russia has expended its 20-year military build-up on (at best) marginal gains, Putin can only rely on weapons from Iran and North Korea. Ukraine, on the other hand, is being supplied by the US. Guess who has deeper pockets and better weapons?
Even if a good chunk of Europe folds, there will always be enough munitions to support an increasingly larger Ukrainian army. More to the point, Putin dare not call for a mobilization. No Real Russian wants to die in Donbass or Kherson. The oldsters just want to watch a retro-WW2 show on the tube, while the youngsters know what’s really going on from social media.
Decades ago, I thought Russia might present some kind of alternative to the West. Instead, Putin squandered it all, in pursuit of a Russian Imperial Dream some 300 years out of date.
His regime will end–probably sooner than we imagine. Whether or not Russia remains a viable, unified state is the only real question we need think about.

William Adams
William Adams
19 days ago
Reply to  martin logan

The dissolution of Russia would be in everyone’s interests but unfortunately China’s as well. Russia is doomed to be a puppet of China.

Perry de Havilland
Perry de Havilland
19 days ago

Nah, most of the people screaming about Ukraine (as opposed to the cost of living) in Czech Republic are a Red-Brown Communist-Fascist faction that are noisy but deeply unrepresentative.

Daniel Noon
Daniel Noon
12 days ago

As Martin Logan writes Putin makes George Bush look like a genius. An invasion does not have to be military. U.S. invaded Ukraine politically and installed a right wing puppet, Zelensky. Putin fell for the provocation. Here Ukraine gained support from those reopening old conflicts between Czechoslovakia (itself a U.S. creation to weaken Austria and Europe after WW1) and USSR, neither of which exists today, Why arer thos who opposesupporting fascist Zelensky called ‘right wing’?

martin logan
martin logan
19 days ago

In March I predicted in Unherd that most of the Russian tanks entering Ukraine would never make it back across the border. That sadly has proved all too true.
Russia was never a viable nation once the Soviet Union fell. In that sense Putin is right. His idiot “solution,” however, was to seize Ukraine’s farmland, so Russia would have a monopoly on the world’s food and fuel. But if you only take a small part of the country, it doesn’t work. Creating a modern economy probably never entered his mind, since he has no idea how the West really works.
Far worse, Vova was unable to build–even in 20 years–an effective army or air force. Everyone stole too much, and the generals were too lazy to study modern warfare. They simply adopted the top-down model that was obsolete in Tsarist times. Ukraine’s model of bottoms-up initiative by junior leaders is one of the main reasons for Russia’s failure in the last 3 months.
Now Russia is on the defensive against a larger Ukrainian army. 20,000 men are isolated in Kherson, with no means of retreating across the Dnipro.
And Vova’s last hope is…North Korea!
Putin makes George Bush look like a genius.