Despite the 4,081 miles that separate New York and Prague, the current political climate surrounding the recent inauguration of Donald Trump has been infiltrating the environment around campus and may be a threat to the Czech Republic itself.
Donald Trump has publically vocalized his support for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin alone has increasingly become a threat to Czechs security after the annexing of Crimea and threats against Poland and the Baltic States. The Czech Republic has consistently found protection through the European Union; however, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have denounced both the EU and the military alliance between the U.S. and Europe, NATO.
According to the NYU Prague Director and assistant to former Czech President Vaclav Havel, Jiri Pehe, Donald Trumps’ friendship with Putin and lack of support for European protection could be detrimental.
“I would definitely say if you judge the way Donald Trump has acted, he’s a threat to the way Europe has functioned for the past 70 years,” said Pehe. “NATO is simply based on the premise that is a psychological one: all for one and one for all. When you start casting doubt on this principle, you are allowing superpowers to come in.”
Russia’s current attempts to emerge as a superpower have been seen through their push for pro-Russian propaganda in the Czech Republic. There are currently websites circulating around the country filled with fake news regarding Russian politics. The Czech government has established a sector of government to fight off this propaganda, the Centre Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats; however, there is also pro-Russian support coming from within the Czech political sphere itself with the Czech President claiming to support Putin.
“The effect of Zeman is mainly psychological,” said Pehe. “He doesn’t hold any real power but he was elected by the public and he has some effect on the public.”
However, since the annexation of Crimea, Putin’s attempt to exert Russian power has been slowed by economic sanctions coming from predominantly NATO nations. Donald Trump has vacillated in his views on this alliance, first calling it “obsolete” then claiming that America backs it, as quoted by the New York Times.
The resignation of Michael T. Flynn, the national security advisor, further complicated the future of America’s sanctions on Russia. Before Trump’s inauguration, Flynn discussed how the sanctions would be handled under Trump’s administration to the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak He had previously denied the discussion of sanctions; however, it was revealed this was a lie, prompting his resignation.
Aside from Trump’s team lying about Russian relations, he has also vocally supported Putin. Recently, when the host of a Fox News show commented “Putin’s a killer,” Donald Trump responded by saying “There are a lot of killers. We get a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent?”
The confusion surrounding Trump’s views has further been complicated when last week, he said that he expects Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine making it unclear whether or not Trump himself still backs Putin.
However, even if Trump and Putin’s relationship remains unstable, Trump is still a threat to the alliances that keep the Czech Republic safe from Russian interference, according Tomas Klvana, a professor at NYU Prague. Klvana wrote a book titled Fenomen Trump, which discusses the contemporary rebellion of white men and social setting which allowed for Donald Trump’s victory.
“What I’m fearing, however, is that Trump is a threat because of his chaotic management style,” said Klvana. “We can’t take it for granted that these alliances will prevail on their own. Trump could undermine them.”