"A tangible blow": What will Czech Republic lose by cutting ties with Russia
Czech Republic delivered an ultimatum to Russia. Moscow must return 20 Czech diplomats it expelled, otherwise 60 employees of the Russian embassy will be declared persona non grata in Prague. What negative economic consequences the escalation of contradictions between the two countries can lead to, read in the material of "Vestnik Kavkaza".
The Czech government cannot come to terms with the expulsion of its diplomats from Russia. 20 people are too many for her. Such a reduction in the composition of the diplomatic mission, in fact, calls into question its efficiency, given that there are only 20-30 people there. On the eve, the head of the Czech Foreign Ministry, Jakub Kulganek, threatened to expel about 60 Russian diplomats in order to achieve "parity conformity" of the composition of the Russian embassy in Prague. Let us remind you that on April 17 the Czech Republic announced 18 persons of the embassy persona non grata.
Kulganek says that if the Russian Federation does not return all 20 Czech diplomats it has expelled by 13-00 Moscow time today, Prague will expel six dozen Russian diplomats. Judging by the statement of the press secretary of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova, Moscow does not intend to make any concessions. "We offer Prague to leave ultimatums for communication within NATO. With Russia, such a tone is unacceptable," she said.
The conflict between Russia and the Czech Republic escalated due to the events of 2014. Then an explosion occurred at an ammunition depot in the Czech village of Vrbetice, as a result of which two people died. The Czech investigation believes that this is a sabotage organized by the Russian special services. The latter allegedly tried to prevent the supply of weapons to Ukraine, which was waging a war against the DPR and LPR. Prague has put two Russian citizens on the wanted list - Petrov and Boshirov. It was they, according to the Czech prosecutor's office, who staged the explosion. The Kremlin categorically denies Moscow's involvement in the incident. Presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov called the findings of the Czech government "provocative and unfriendly."
Zakharova's reaction looks logical after yesterday's message from Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Federal Assembly. “We see what is happening in real life: as I said, they cling to Russia here and there for no reason. And of course, all sorts of small Tobaccos are spinning around them, like around Sherkhan, all like Kipling’s, howling for in order to appease your sovereign, "he said.
Tabaki has already turned to Sherkhan. First Deputy Prime Minister and I. about. Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek called on NATO and EU partners to expel Russian diplomats en masse as a sign of solidarity. The last time this happened was in 2018, when, after the poisoning of Skripal in British Salisbury, 160 members of Russian diplomatic missions were expelled from Europe and the United States.
Trending with Biden
The behavior of the Czech Republic is in line with the trend set by the United States. If under the previous head of the White House, Donald Trump, the frustration could be attributed to Washington's isolationism and claims to allies on tariffs and defense spending, then Joe Biden is trying to appease EU partners as much as possible and revive transatlantic solidarity. When the United States, one after another, imposes sanctions against Russia, its power structures, the national debt, and a serious escalation is coming in Ukraine, then European countries are faced with a choice - either Biden or Putin. The Czech Republic is a NATO country, it has a pro-Western parliament. So even if President Milos Zeman is loyal to Russia, the general trend in the existing geopolitical realities remains anti-Russian.
We were already convinced of this last year, when the monument to the Soviet Marshall Ivan Konev was demolished in Prague. Then, by the way, Prague also blamed the Russian special services. They allegedly tried to poison the head of the Prague-6 district Ondřej Kolář and the mayor of the capital Zdenek Grzybu in revenge for the dismantling of the monument. The Czech Republic expelled two Russian diplomats in June 2020, Moscow responded symmetrically.
Prague has its own logic, and this is its choice of how to build its relations with the Kremlin. However, Putin makes it clear that any attacks, no matter how motivated, will not go unanswered: “We really do not want to burn bridges. bridges, must know that Russia's response will be asymmetrical, swift and tough."
Senator Alexei Pushkov believes that Prague is playing on the brink of a foul and risks a complete breakdown in relations. "The Czech Republic cannot dictate conditions to Russia and put forward ultimatums. It runs into either a decrease in the level of diplomatic relations, or a break in them," he commented.
The Czech Republic and Russia are linked by very close economic relations. Against the backdrop of a diplomatic scandal, they have already begun to gradually roll up. The Czech Republic refused to purchase the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and excluded Rosatom from the tender for the construction of a new reactor at the Dukovany nuclear power plant in the southeast of the country.
The Czech Republic depends on Russia in a number of ways. For her, tourists from Russia were in the top ten before the pandemic. In 2019, 560 thousand Russians visited the Eastern European country. At the same time, the Czech Republic is not a priority for Russian tourists and is in 24th place among popular destinations. For comparison, almost 7 million Russian citizens visited Turkey in the same 2019. The Czech Republic is popular for property buyers. According to some reports, Russians and immigrants from the USSR own almost half of the apartments in Karlovy Vary. 38 thousand Russians live in the Czech Republic, more than half of them in Prague.
In the energy sector, the Czech Republic also relies on cooperation with Russia. Fuel for both nuclear power plants with Soviet-designed reactors - Dukovany and Temelin - is supplied by a subsidiary of Rosatom. The contract is valid until 2023. The Czech Republic receives almost 60% of its gas from Russia. In 2020, Moscow exported 5.1 billion cubic meters of gas to this country. Oil exports a year earlier amounted to 4.3 million tons. The trade turnover of the two countries last year amounted to $ 6.1 billion, decreasing by one third compared to 2019.
Expert: Russia has leverage
Associate Professor of the Department of Foreign Regional Studies and Foreign Policy of the Russian State University for the Humanities, Candidate of Historical Sciences Vadim Trukhachev notes that Russia has economic levers of pressure on it.
"The deprivation of Rosatom of the right to participate in the tender for the completion of Czech nuclear power plants will result in additional expenses for the Czech Republic. Both of its nuclear power plants are of the Soviet model, and the adaptation of non-Russian units to the Russian basis will require additional costs. Otherwise, accidents are inevitable. In addition, Russia may limit the supply of machine tools and products. machine-building and petrochemical industries of the Czech Republic. Russian companies can invest less in the Czech economy. It is possible not to resume flights with Prague, "he said in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
Such sanctions will not be "fatal", but they will nevertheless prove painful for the Czech Republic. "To overcome the consequences of such measures, the Czechs will need some time and additional money. You can try to undermine Czech trade with China. It is not a fact that it will work out, but it is necessary to try. In this case, the punishment will become more tangible," the expert added.
Russia is the 12th trade partner for the Czech Republic, and the Czech Republic closes the second ten in the list of the main trade partners of Russia. In the second quarter of last year, the Czech Republic's GDP fell by a record 10.9%. The pandemic in the EU is still ongoing, restrictions have not been lifted. All this puts pressure on the EU member states. The Czech Republic will not die without Russia, but the blow to its economy will be serious. Therefore, before expelling another 60 members of the Russian diplomatic corps, it would be better for Prime Minister Andrei Babish to consult with economists.