Shock revelation that agents of Russia’s GRU intelligence force were involved in a 2014 blast at an arsenal in the Czech city of Vrbetice caused earthquakes for Czech-Russian relations and foreign tensions Delivery is likely to continue. However, is this only the initial response to the bomb announcement or could this situation cause a greater change in relations between the former Easern Bloc countries in Central Europe and Russia?
Initially, the Czech Republic expelled 18 staff members suspected of being Russian with diplomatic cover from Prague and Russia expelled, according to the reaction of 20 staff of the Czech embassy from Moscow. The Czechs raised their stance and stated that unless Russia cancels the reciprocal move, they will demand equality in the number of diplomats between the two countries.
The reactions and stances of Slovakia and other V4 countries are particularly interesting. Slovakia is one of the most pro-Russian countries in the region. According to a recent one GLOBSEC Report, 42% agree that Russia is a strategic partner and nearly 80% agree that “Russia is our traditional Slavic brother”.
Yet it was Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok, who initiated a joint statement by three other Visegrad Foreign Ministers (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) condemning the attack against the Czech Republic and expressed solidarity with other members of Visegrad. . Hungary’s known for its warm relationship with the Kremlin joining the group is also highly symbolic.
To show solidarity with the Czech Republic, Slovakia also expulsion three Russian diplomats, who according to Slovak authorities used diplomatic cover to conduct espionage on Thursday, sent a very strong signal to Russia. The move, the first to expel diplomats from any other country, resonated strongly in the Czech Republic and demonstrated the close ties between the two countries.
As emotions subside and world attention shifts elsewhere, will this have a lasting effect on Russia’s image in the region? Despite the 30 years since Communism collapsed, Russia is seen as an important, strategic partner in this region. The Image of Russian report concluded that on average 30% of people living in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Western Balkans, still consider Russia a strategic partner.
More importantly, the perception of the threat posed by Russia is rather small – on average only 25% feel threatened. A quick survey made on April 19 revealed that the majority of Czechs viewed Russia as a threat, while last October’s view of Russia was shared only by 43%.
So, has Central Europe finally awoken from the dream of its benevolent Eastern bear brother Slavic?
Certainly a segment of the population has been deeply disturbed by recent revelations, but voices of support for the Kremlin – politicians, misleading media outlets and major state media Russian formula – working to turn the story from solidarity to denial and ridicule. Many comments and videos have appeared mocking Czech revelations, selling many conspiracy theories and false reporting accusing the Czechs of acting like American puppets, despite all the evidence.
It seems that the expulsion of Russian diplomats is not enough to limit the Kremlin’s subversive influence in the region. The highly efficient and lubricated ecosystem of political actors, the media and economic interest groups needs to be closely monitored, as well as the trip of the two GRU “tourists” of Russia. Vrbetice.