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Respekt: Czech politicians underestimate Russian influence

ČTK |
26 January 2016

Prague, Jan 25 (CTK) - The security and political elites in the Czech Republic have long been underestimating the risks of the Russian influence and revealing Russian spies was never a priority of the Czech counter-intelligence, but the situation has changed, Ondrej Kundra writes in weekly Respekt out yesterday.
Last week, a British court decided that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the death of Moscow's critic Alexander Litvinenko. In 2006, Litvinenko was killed in London by Russian spies.
Kundra writes that the Litvinenko case shows that Russian secret services operated on European territory more and more, they abducted the opponents of the Kremlin and influenced politics.
The policy of Czech President Milos Zeman and the previous head of state Vaclav Klaus has played into the hands of Moscow. This is also why the Czech counter-intelligence did not consider the revealing of Russian spies its priority, Kundra writes.
It is high time to change this, and it may even be late. The countries of the European Union must decide whether to close their gates, and especially countries such as the Czech Republic face the threat of being caught in the harsh network of Russian interests again, Kundra writes.
The situation is so serious that even the otherwise rather indifferent United States started dealing with European security: the U.S. Congress ordered the intelligence to reveal the financing of political parties in the EU, first of all in Central Europe, Kundra says.
According to the Americans, Russian money wants to make NATO unstable, support forces that disintegrate Europe and prevent the search for alternative energy sources, Kundra writes.
It is noteworthy that such a defence activity was launched by the USA and not the EU itself or the most vulnerable Central European states, he says.
After the fall of its communist regime, the Czech Republic joined NATO and the European Union and the Czech public has had a strong feeling that there is no big threat now and that there is no reason to focus on the protection of the country's security, Kundra writes.
Some started claiming that the biggest threat to national sovereignty or even freedom comes from Washington or Brussels, he adds.
But the real threat is elsewhere: Russia has never withdrawn its spies, on the contrary, its secret services were reinforced in the last several years. The spies got many tasks, political cover from the Kremlin and enough money for their activities, Kundra writes.
The Russian intelligence wants to undermine the still fragile Czech democracy and make it chaotic, weaken the country's integration into the defence and political structures of the West and get hold of the Czech secrets, Kundra writes.
In the 1990s, many in Europe expected Russia to develop in similar ways to the other post-communist states that started moving towards NATO and the EU. Due to this illusion, the Western secret services stopped focusing on fighting the Russian threat, Kundra writes.
Europe is full of illegal and covertly operating Russian agents, populists and xenophobes financed by Russia are getting stronger in France, Hungary, Austria and other countries. American and British secret services reported that the Czech Republic is one of the gates through which the Russian spies enter the Schengen zone, Kundra says.
The Russian intelligence KGB has been based in the Czech Republic since the late 1960s and the fall of the Iron Curtain changed nothing about it. Czech politicians did not pay much attention to the Russian secret services that were afflicted by internal disputes and doubts caused by the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kundra writes.
But the experienced secret service officials survived the era of insecurity, having a lot of contacts and information. When Putin, who worked for KGB for many years, got to the top in the Kremlin in 1999, the revival of the Russian secret services started and they began to expand in Europe, Kundra writes.
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