Current Affairs President Klaus looks back on US-Czech relations ahead of 4th of July
Ahead of Independence Day in the United States, President Václav Klaus visited an event at the American embassy this week. As he noted, it was the last such occasion that he would attend as head of state, and he took the opportunity to look back on relations between the Czech Republic and the US over the course of his two terms in office.
With only eight months left in his final term of office, President Klaus has taken to touches of nostalgia in many of his routine public appearances of late. On the occasion of the upcoming 4th of July, the Czech president – who it should be noted has consistently improved his English over the last 9 years, as well as his Russian and his Italian – said he wanted to speak in broader terms about Czech-American relations.
“The United States is a country which is firmly connected with our statehood. A century ago, the Czechs living in the United States welcomed the activity of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and helped him to gain support for our independence from President Wilson. Several weeks ago, I attended the NATO summit in Chicago. There is no other city which would better illustrate the close historical ties between our two countries. Nowhere else in the world will you find such monumental statues of Karel Havlíček Borovský or of the Blaník Knight, a sculpture honouring President Masaryk.”
Truth be told, President Klaus does not enjoy the same kind of fervent goodwill that his predecessor Václav Havel did – party because of Havel’s lifelong personal relationship with the United States and partly because Klaus is more conservative than the conservatives on global warming and waxed overtly liberal on the issue of Iraq. Nonetheless, he made clear what a major role US relations played in his presidency.
“In my political career there has been no country I have visited more often than the United States. During my two presidential terms, I have visited your country 24 times. I have met with almost all of the American presidents who have resided in the White House over the last 40 years. In my second terms alone, we have twice had the pleasure of welcoming President Obama, who chose Prague as the place for one of his main foreign policy initiatives. This is also symbolic, in my view.”
He said that amid a difficult period he did not want to misuse the opportunity to dwell on the public debt crisis or other economic problems that the Western world is currently dealing with, but wanted to stress that he believes the American example remains relevant for the Czech Republic and for Europe in present times.
“In the American War of Independence, your ancestors fought for freedom and individual liberties. These values are still worth defending, be it against the threats of supranational bureaucratic regulation and postmodern political manipulation in the developed world or against the traditional threats of totalitarianism and dictatorship. I am pleased and proud that our two countries are friends and allies. Let me congratulate you on the 236th anniversary of the independence of the United States of America.”