When I visited New York in September I heard nothing but praise for the work of the city’s Czech Center in recent years. Much of the credit for this belongs to Barbara Karpetová, its tireless director, whose tenure is now coming to a close. The Czech Center is located in the magnificent Bohemian National Hall on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. When we spoke at its well-stocked, stylish library, I asked Karpetová who the institution’s visitors tended to be.
US President Donald Trump and his then-wife Ivana were the target of an
extensive spying operation conducted by Czechoslovakia’s communist secret
service, (StB) together with “friends” from the KGB, The Guardian
reported in its Monday edition.
According to The Guardian, the StB first opened a file on Trump following his marriage in 1977 to his first wife, Ivana Zelníčková. The operation was run out of Zlín, the provincial town in south-west Czechoslovakia where Zelníčková was born and grew up. Ivana’s father Miloš regularly gave the StB information about his daughter’s visits from the US and on his celebrity son-in-law’s career in New York. Zelníček was classified as a “conspiratorial” informer. His relationship with the StB reportedly lasted until the end of the communist regime.
The StB’s interest in Donald and Ivana intensified in the late 1980s, after Trump let it be known he was thinking of running for president, The Guardian wrote.
Having served as US secretary of state from 1997 to 2001, Madeleine Albright ranks as one of the most accomplished of all Czech-Americans. I got to speak to the Prague-born politician recently when she was special guest at the Reality Czech evening in New York, organised by the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association and the Václav Havel Library Foundation to mark the centenary of the founding of Czechoslovakia. Our conversation eventually turned to that landmark anniversary – but it began with Secretary Albright’s recently published book Fascism:
Václav Havel has just received a major honour, with the unveiling of a bronze bust of the late dissident turned president at Columbia University in New York. Speaking at the ceremony, Havel’s friend Madeleine Albright said he would have been alarmed at some aspects of today’s world – but would not have succumbed to despair.
A number of Czech politicians have paid tribute to US Senator John McCain,
a Vietnam veteran and former presidential candidate, who died on Saturday
from brain cancer at the age of 81.
In various statements, political leaders described the outspoken Republican as role model, freedom fighter and defender of democracy. Civic Democrat (ODS) chairman Petr Fiala described him as a brave man and friend of the Czech Republic while Top 09 party chairman Miroslav Kalousek described him as a principled leader admired around the world.
McCain will be missed not only by Americans, said the head of the foreign policy section of the presidential chancellery, Rudolf Jindrák.
Czech politicians have welcomed the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, with Prime Minister Babiš calling it a breakthrough in bilateral relations that will open dialogue on many burning issues. However political analysts predict that the new relationship may bring trying times for Europe. Commentator Daniel Anýž says the two leaders clearly have a common interest in a weak European Union.
Donald Trump has made headlines this week by calling on America’s NATO allies to increase their defence spending. His words have met with a mixed response here in the Czech Republic, with some acceptance that armaments purchases must be stepped up – but questions surrounding the speed and focus of such spending.
The US decision to pull out of the United Nations Human Rights Council
means that the Czech Republic is losing an important partner in protection
of human rights and freedoms, Irena Valentová of the Czech Foreign
Ministry’s press department told the Czech News Agency on Wednesday.
According to the ministry, the Czech Republic shares some of Washington’s concerns over the functioning of the council, but it wants to remain a member to take part in its reform.
The US on Wednesday withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling it hypocritical and self-serving and accusing it of political bias against Israel.