‘Western Civilisation’ will not be saved by empowering nihilists

GREG Sheridan is now going country to country trying to shock people. Arguably Australia’s most fervent backer of America’s Endless Wars, he filed a column today from the Czech Republic. In his Cliffs Notes cosmology – wherein the complexities of history needn’t be either taken or read – the Czechs are important to Australia’s existential struggle against China because they’re on Ukraine’s side against Russia; this means Canberra’s support for Kiev is now being repaid by Prague’s – and the European Union’s – support for AUKUS as it ‘stands up to’ Beijing in defence of Taiwan (which is not recognised as a sovereign state by the EU, Australia, the UK or the United States). Read that again and marvel. This is the embarrassingly vacuous ‘send a message to China’ rationale for proxy war invented by the same people who messaged Iran to build a bomb. It isn’t only repetition of a dumb slogan that fouls truthfulness in national security reportage, however. What’s left out of the establishmentarian op-eds these days is far more enlightening.

Sheridan’s essay is a cornily admiring, annotated question-and-answer session with Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Lipavské. A member of the Pirate Party (yes, really), he rarely makes the Anglophone news. When he did – in April – the reason was predictable. The left-wing anti-Christian extremist gratuitously started a brawl with his Hungarian counterpart, Tamás Menczer, by expressing regret that the Czechs will not be joining a European Commission lawsuit against Budapest for its ban on the promotion of homosexuality and trans-mutilation in schools. Menczer’s rebuke was justifiably brutal. Three weeks later, Lipavské received an audience with US Secretary of State Tony Blinken who has made de-Christianisation an obsessive priority for neocon foreign policy – not least within the Visegrád Four where religiosity is seen as a hindrance to American bear-baiting. A landlocked central European republic’s foreign minister touting an “Indo-Pacific strategy” is merely amusing. Flattering a blank grifter like Lipavské as a Talleyrand is cretinous.

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12 Responses to ‘Western Civilisation’ will not be saved by empowering nihilists

  1. C.L. says:

    Czech mates share our AUKUS, China goals: ‘Imperialism is a global issue’.

    Prague is just as clear-eyed about the threat of China as it is about Russia, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavksy reveals.

    The day I meet Jan Lipavksy, Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic, he is busy clearing up some historic debris left over from the communist past. Dating from ­Soviet days, Moscow had free use of a number of big properties in Prague, allegedly for diplomatic purposes. Not many years ago, Russia had 200 diplomatic personnel in Prague, an absurdly inflated presence which may well have served some distinctly non-diplomatic purposes. Prague of, course, remains a critically important central European city.

    The Czechs reduced the number of Russian diplomats they host to seven, a strict equivalence in the number of Russian diplomats in Prague as there are Czech diplomats in Moscow. Lipavsky, who is remarkably straightforward during our interview, explains: “A significant amount of this property was not being used in accordance with the Vienna convention.”

    These properties will no longer be provided for free, and their activities will be closely supervised.

    Lipavsky hails from the progressive left in Czech politics, but from a libertarian strand (libertarians are all but unknown on the Australian left). Like many European progressives, he is a hard head on strategic issues and provides the strongest endorsement I’ve heard yet from continental ­Europe for the AUKUS grouping.

    “We very much support the AUKUS initiative, since it affects European security as well as Indo-Pacific security,” he tells me. “The European debate (on security) is moving very fast. I will be a voice calling for a very co-operative approach with the US. AUKUS, the US and Europe need to be working together. I have to say that the US is doing an incredible job assisting European security, and we have to be prepared to help with Indo-­Pacific security.”

    That is perhaps a polite way of saying that Washington helps Europe deal with Russia and Europe helps Washington deal with China.

    Prague has an integrated Indo-Pacific strategy as part of its national foreign policy. It does this, the Foreign Minister says, because it recognises that European security and Indo-Pacific security are linked, now more than ever.

    “You are at the other side of the globe but you are a country that is very close to us culturally,” Lipavsky says. “There are 30,000 people with Czech heritage in Australia. It’s a country where our people feel they can live their lives well. There is a lot of co-operation between us. We use every opportunity to meet your representatives when they travel to Europe.”

    Lipavsky is too polite to draw attention to the imbalance that the Czech Republic, a much smaller nation than Australia, has an embassy in Canberra but we don’t have one in Prague. It seems mad that we are unrepresented in both Prague and Budapest, major central European cities that are capitals of frontline states in dealing with Russian aggression and the China/Russia axis.

    It’s also impossible to get an accurate read on the contemporary EU if, as a diplomatic service, you ignore central Europe and all but ignore eastern Europe. DFAT’s view of the EU is skewed by its under-representation in east and central Europe. The Czech Republic has only about 10.5 million people, but it took in 500,000 Ukrai­nian refugees in one of the biggest immigrations in its history, and it has been a leader in supporting Ukraine, materially and politically.

    I put to Lipavsky the two contradictory schools of interpreting Vladimir Putin’s invasion and other military adventures. One holds that Putin’s aggression is something that was provoked by NATO expansion towards Russia’s borders, and by the West not being hospitable enough to post-communist Russia, not giving it a sufficient place at the international decision-making table. The alternative theory points out that Putin was professionally and intellectually formed by the KGB, and developed his world view independently of any Western moulding. Lipavsky indicates that of the two he leans towards the latter explanation, but frames the issue somewhat differently.

    Russian history is the key, he says: “Clearly the biggest threat to European security is Russian imperialism. And Russian imperialism has been present for many centuries. It was present in the ­Soviet Union. Putin represents Russian imperialism.”

    He adds with a distinct note of scepticism: “Maybe another Russian leader would have changed this, but most Russian leaders ride on this idea of Russian imperialism. Look at Russian TV. It boasts of its nuclear forces, it talks of bombing European cities, and not only small European cities. Russian imperialism is a global issue. It makes its presence felt in Africa, in the Indo-Pacific, you can see its ­influence in global markets in food and energy.”

    The most difficult question, then, is what will happen in Ukraine. Lipavsky doesn’t claim to be able to foretell the future, but his analysis is blunt and straightforward: “We are now in a situation where we know the Russian winter offensive has failed. It seems there is more talk of a Ukrainian counter-offensive with the idea of liberating some of the territory that’s been conquered. I hope it will be successful.

    “The sooner the war is over the better it is for Europe, for Ukraine, for everybody. We have to be absolutely clear on this. The war is not only about Ukraine and its borders. It’s a matter of principle – the UN Charter, European security, that international borders cannot be changed by force, that one country cannot commit theft of the territory of another country. This is an unprovoked Russian war of aggression and Ukraine must protect its territorial integrity.”

    He argues that in the face of Russian aggression, European and NATO unity has grown: “Support for Ukraine is very solid.” He’s also adamant that Russia must return all the territory it has stolen from Ukraine, including Crimea.

    In July, NATO will hold a summit in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius. Lipavsky works closely with the Baltic foreign ministers and is involved in NATO summit preparatory dialogue. His ambition is great: “I have a wish list for the NATO summit which includes a clear path to NATO membership for Ukraine. This is a political debate within NATO. But the most important thing is practical support for Ukraine right now.”

    Lipavsky believes the Russia/Ukraine war will have direct consequences for Asia. In a recent opinion piece in the Washington Examiner, he wrote: “There’s another reason why liberation of Crimea and other parts of Ukraine occupied by Russia is crucial: it sends a message to Beijing. China’s aggressive behaviour in its neighbourhood is a growing concern, particularly when it comes to Taiwan. The consequences of any attack on Taiwanese democracy would be huge, both economically and politically, including for Europe, the US and China itself.”

    These remarks represent a growing European consciousness of the strategic risks posed by Beijing. Lipavsky is balanced but pretty direct about Beijing: “China is a threat and an opportunity at the same time. Security in the Indo-Pacific is connected to security in Europe. We have a policy of very close co-operation with Indo-­Pacific democracies like Australia and New Zealand, but also with the democracy of Taiwan. To be dependent on countries like Russia and China presents risks. We see China has its own ambitions to reshape the international order.

    “It doesn’t mean we’ll be cutting off all business relations (with China) but in AI, cyber security, ­renewables, critical medicines etc, society needs to be resilient.”

    Beijing has often expressed displeasure at Prague’s policies and actions towards Taiwan, but having broken free from the Soviet empire and withstood sustained pressure from post-Soviet Russia, Prague takes a matter-of-fact ­approach to its occasional dis­agreements with Beijing.

    “Taiwan has more investment in my country than China does,” Lipavsky says. “It makes sense for my country to co-operate with Taiwan. We don’t set out to provoke China. We just do our business with Taiwan. We’ve had representatives visit Taiwan, but everything is discussed with China through our active diplomatic discussion.”

    Lipavsky would prefer that Beijing and Moscow did not have their close partnership, but he argues that the weaker Russia becomes “the less it is a partnership and the more Russia is an obedient minor in that relationship”.

    He also points out there have been some important disagreements between Beijing and Moscow over Ukraine: “China was able to articulate they didn’t want to play recklessly with nuclear rhetoric. They also made it clear they aren’t happy with the treatment of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.” This power plant in Ukraine is now controlled by Russia and there are concerns over its safety.

    Beijing’s chief diplomatic contribution to the war in Ukraine was to propose a peace plan in which sanctions against Russia were lifted, but Moscow was not required to give up any territory it had already conquered, while all sides engaged in peace talks.

    “I don’t see China’s peace plan as a way to go. But dialogue with China is important.”

    Lipavsky, who recently visited the US to hold meetings with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, expresses a strong faith in continued US strategic leadership: “From my discussions with Secretary Blinken, and with Republicans, I think the Americans have a clear view of China. They understand all the risks and … have a clear policy.”

    He thinks the Americans are generally clear on Russia too, although he acknowledges that there are some minority sections of the Republican Party which are inclined to be more accommodating to Moscow.

    Lipavsky’s political position is enlightening. He represents a strand of political thought increasingly powerful in Europe but substantially unknown in Australia. The party he represents in parliament, the Pirate Party, was born out of a youthful libertarianism and opposition to censorship and control of the ­internet.

    It is part of a four-party coalition dominated by the centre right, but it represents a centre left consciousness and constituency. In the European parliament, it sits with the Greens. In the German governing coalition, Annalena Baerbock of the Greens Party is the Foreign Minister. She is both a committed Atlanticist and one of the strongest members of the German government in supporting Ukraine against Russia. A sizeable chunk of liberal/progressive Left opinion in Europe remains committed to left-wing social issues and environmental policies, but is also committed to the defence of liberty against tyranny. Similarly, it recognises that in Russia it faces unequivocal military aggression which needs to be resisted militarily. It equally understands that the alliance Europe has with the US, through NATO, is not only essential to European security but a force of moral good in the world.

    This is similar to the outlook of the Albanese government, but Australian activist groups and political parties to the left of Labor, notably the Greens, display not 1 per cent of this strategic sagacity.

    Of course, national background and historical memory play a role. I meet Lipavsky in the Czech foreign ministry in the Cerninsky Palace, a baroque masterpiece dating from the 1600s, one of a number of palaces gathered around the Prague Castle. After my discussion with the Foreign Minister, an official takes me on a tour of some of its grand meeting rooms, libraries and suites.

    It is the largest of Prague’s baroque palaces and is full of high ceilings, grand corridors, monumental paintings and the persistent, low thrum of diplomats at work. Two of its suites, however, are unique. One is where Czech foreign ministers formerly lived. While the bedroom is big, and the library massive, it also has that anonymous, institutional feel.

    Jan Masaryk was the Czech foreign minister in 1948. The son of Tomas Masaryk, the founding president of independent Czechoslovakia, Masaryk Jnr had a complicated war, resisting the Nazis but trying to keep some room for Czech independence from the looming domination of the Soviet Union. He stayed as foreign minister after the war and his ex-wife lived in the ministry in a suite across from his own, both suites preserved today.

    Masaryk stayed in government even as the communists took power, trying both to moderate the communists but also acting as their fig leaf of respectability. In the room next to his bedroom, on the third floor of the palace, above a stone courtyard, is the deep window from which Masaryk allegedly leapt to his death on the unforgiving courtyard below. It was claimed at the time that he committed suicide, but it was widely believed that the communists murdered him. That is indeed the conclusion which a number of Czech historical inquiries have come to and it is the widely accepted belief today. Falling from high buildings seems a strikingly common form of demise under communist and later Russian rule.

    It’s enough to concentrate the mind, even decades later. Lipavsky has, not far from his own office, a powerful reminder of what can happen to a foreign minister who is a thorn in the side of a ruthless imperial power.

  2. C.L. says:

    To the foreign minister of the Czech Republic:
    Keep your hands off Hungarian children!

    Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky wrote:

    I regret that the Czech Republic does not join the European lawsuit against the Hungarian anti-LGBTQI law. But we in the Pirate Party have no intention of giving up on this topic. Children are not threatened by such characters on TV or in books. They are at risk of artificially inciting hatred or withholding information.

    The reality, on the other hand, is that “such characters” are dangerous for children.

    Children are vulnerable, they cannot protect themselves. We have to protect them. We must protect children from LGBTQ propaganda. We must protect children from pedophiles. We have seen terrible examples, and we must ensure they do not happen again. And we have to protect children from those incompetent politicians who don’t recognize the danger!

    What happens in Czech kindergartens and schools is the business of the Czechs. I have nothing to do with it. I have nothing to do with how Jan Lipavsky raises his child – if he has one. But it would be good if the Czech foreign minister knew that in Hungary only the decision of the Hungarian people matters, and that Hungarians clearly decided that children must be protected. We Hungarians are capable of everything for our children; the more people who come against us on the rainbow express train, the stronger we will be.

    And we will protect our children!

  3. NFA says:

    Australia’s very own ‘Prince of Propaganda’ reporting from the belly of the EU beast.

    PS. Great ‘masthead’ C.L.

  4. Buccaneer says:

    Someone buy Sheridan a red bandanna

  5. Christine says:

    I laughed at the first sentence, picturing him busily going from country to country.

  6. Christine says:

    Cheerful masthead for today. Much appreciated.

  7. C.L. says:

    I laughed at the first sentence, picturing him busily going from country to country.

    It’s a tribute to a famous classic at The Onion, Christine. 🙂

  8. jupes says:

    Sheridan is an asset of the US deep state. He has been groomed for decades and is on first name terms with many of them. Be interesting to know if he willingly does their bidding or is an unwitting dupe. Either way, he is just embarrassing himself now.

  9. Petros says:

    The Onion was so funny back in the day, before wokeness took over. This seems to have happened quite some time ago. One of the first to be fall? I miss their horoscopes and vox populi segments.

  10. C.L. says:

    No Truce With the Heartland

    Very interesting article. 👍

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