The Czech daily Mlada fronta DNES today publicized its analysis of the recent diplomatic dispatches released by WikiLeaks that concern the Czech Republic. In total, Wikileaks publicized 1,271 dispatches from Prague, the majority of them from 2004-2010. The main U.S. diplomats that sent those reports were William Cabaniss (ambassador from 2004-2006), Richard Graber (ambassador from 2006-2009), and Mary Thompson-Jones (charge d’affaires from 2009—there was no ambassador in Prague after Graber until earlier this year). Overall, with a couple of exceptions, nothing particularly earth-shattering emerged from Mlada fronta‘s review, and the paper seemed rather surprised that the United States evaluated the Czech Republic so positively, as an economically mature country and as an ally.
In one area, Mlada fronta wrote that the Czech Republic had actually surpassed the United States – in its moral scruples about working with Lukashenka’s Belarus. According to the dispatches, the U.S. Navy wanted to purchase 23 Russian anti-ship missiles (evidently for research or training purposes), but couldn’t buy them directly from Russia (I guess because Russia wouldn’t have wanted to sell them to the U.S.). As a result, the plan was to obtain the weapons from Belarus through Ukraine, with a Czech arms dealer arranging the deal. In the end, however, the Czech government decided to derail the plan by not granting the Czech middleman the needed permission to export weapons from a dictatorship like Belarus. The Americans thus didn’t get the weapons.
Some other amusing observations from the dispatches:
–One cable from 2007, before President Vaclav Klaus was to visit Vice President Dick Cheney, described Klaus as being proud of being considered an intellectual and spoke of his unusually high regard for his own intellect.
–Former Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, then in opposition, reportedly assured Ambassador Graber that he personally had nothing against the stationing of a U.S. radar station in the Czech Republic and would try to gain support within his party, the Social Democrats. As Mlada fronta points out, Paroubek was publically one of the strongest enemies of the plan (until Obama axed the idea after taking office, the radar station was supposed to be part of a Bush-era dream for an anti-ballistic missile system against rogue states). Paroubek even threatened to kick off of future candidate lists any deputies that would vote in parliament for the agreements concerned with the radar base.
–Not surprisingly, the embassy has placed a high value on the possibility of a contract for Westinghouse to build additions to the Temelin nuclear power plant, with a cable from 2009 estimating that such a deal could be worth up to $27 billion dollars and help create 9,000 new work places in the United States.
–Cables repeatedly mentioned corruption, with one even titled “Arms Contracts in the Czech Republic: Strange Deals and Big Money” (my translation of the Czech, I haven’t had time to look up the name of the actual cable). Evidently, various cables also detailed a dispute of sorts over a mutual U.S.-Czech R & D fund in the area of arms technology. In February 2010, the embassy warned that the Czech defense ministry wanted to include a passage saying contractors would be chosen according the the Czech public tender law. The Americans supposedly started to suspect that the Czechs wanted to pick winners using non-transparent methods (by the way, weapons contracts closed by the Czech defense ministry have been haunted by accusations of wide-ranging corruption for years, with a virtual avalanche over the past two years). In the end, however, the passage made its way into the agreement, just watered down with a phrase about each side considering transparency in defense contracts as a priority.
The author of the Mlada fronta article wrote in conclusion: “Yes, we were also victorious over the Americans in this case.” With typical Czech humor, he meant it ironically, of course.