Vaclav Havel: We Have to Be Awake
Levitin, Michael, Newsweek International
Byline: Michael Levitin
Twenty years after he led the Velvet Revolution, paving the way for the rise of democracy in Eastern Europe, Vaclav Havel, a playwright and dissident who became free Czechoslovakia's first president, sat down in Berlin with NEWSWEEK's Michael Levitin to discuss fear of Russia, the importance of NATO, and why some of his countrymen still feel nostalgic for the communist era.
What do you make of Moscow's recent behavior toward Georgia and Ukraine? Should Eastern Europeans be alarmed by Russia's rise?
I think we have to be awake. Russia's current policy has greatly raised our attention, and I think there are some signs that Russia is trying to expand its influence in much more sophisticated ways than before.
Can you give some examples?
For instance, it's possible for them to shut down gas and oil pipelines, which has already happened. We also see ourselves being extorted by Russian companies that are buying into strategic Czech companies--Prague Ruzyne Airport is a good example, where Russian ownership of shares has grown to more than half. I don't want to be alarmist. I just say that we shouldn't be naive.
What do you expect from Washington? Would NATO expansion help?
The U.S. has long been enhancing Czech security, and it's NATO, much more than the EU, that is the real security anchor of the Czech Republic [and Eastern Europe]. The EU wouldn't have enlarged in 2004 if it hadn't been for the enlargement of NATO in 1999.
Do you think NATO should include Georgia and Ukraine?
NATO, like the EU, is based on certain values. But by the same token, both organizations need some geographical definition and they need to be aware of their geographical boundaries. In my opinion, this boundary goes along the western Russian border with Ukraine, Belarussia, etc. …