- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In a May 29 interview at The Washington Times, Czech President Vaclav Klaus presented an eloquent defense of freedom. His views emanate from his experience with the previous communist regime. Mr. Klaus was a key participant in the democratization of his nation: He entered politics as a proponent of the free market soon after the Velvet Revolution of 1989 overthrew the communist system; and he was an architect of the Velvet Divorce of 1993, which consisted of the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The communist era, he said, is too often presented as a giant “loss” when in fact it imparted valuable lessons: “We understand how fragile and vulnerable a free society is.”

Mr. Klaus was in Washington touting his support for the U.S. plan to install a system of radar and interceptor missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland. He supports this regardless of Russian objections: “It’s our business.” Mr. Klaus is a fierce critic of the “new religion of environmentalism” because it “is used to justify an enormous scope for government intervention.” He warns that environmentalism is a form of communism which can enter Western societies through the back door. Mr. Klaus insists we must “limit government intervention as much as possible.” He warned U.S. legislators not to attempt to deal with environmental concerns through regulation such as a cap-and-trade pollution control system. The communists, he insisted, regularly tried to control the market - and usually guessed wrong.

Mr. Klaus explained that he is equally wary of international intervention in the affairs of nations. He opposes his nation’s recognition of the independence of Kosovo from Serbia, saying nations must solve their own problems. In 1993, Mr. Klaus was determined to quickly resolve the separation with Slovakia - before the U.S. and other well-meaning nations interfered. Foreign intervention, he believes, invariably leads to “shooting.”

The Czech president also insisted that he is “sometimes frustrated” by the Western media coverage of Russia: Expectations are too high. Given the previous communist context, he maintains Russia is progressing well. He encouraged the Western media not to focus on the personality of current Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin but to highlight the many positive, long-term trends which are underway: “Russia is a totally different country than in the past.” Mr. Klaus failed to acknowledge the many areas in which Mr. Putin has reversed Russia’s march toward democratization.

Nonetheless, Mr. Klaus presented an otherwise principled and courageous defense of cardinal conservative values. He is a refreshing champion of liberty.

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