Velvet Revolution and Velvet Divorce Examined

SASW logo (left) & FOS logo (right)

On May 4 at the Slovak Embassy, Ambassador Ted Russell (Ret.) discussed his experiences as Deputy Chief of Mission in Czechoslovakia during and after the 1989 Velvet Revolution and then as the first U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia after the 1993Velvet  Divorce.  He described the role of U.S. diplomacy during these turning points in Czech and Slovak history and the U.S. Embassy’s interaction with Czech and Slovak leaders,  including Václav Havel and Vladimír Mečiar. Ambassador Russell emphasized how the  Communist government in Czechoslovakia, which lacked public credibility and the  promise of Red Army support, simply dissolved in the face of growing, massive demonstrations beginning November 17, 1989. He then described the bumps in the road  towards democratization during Meciar’s leadership of newly independent Slovakia after  the 1993 Velvet Divorce. He underscored how the popular vision of rejoining Western  democratic institutions, including the EU and NATO, helped buffer some of Mečiar’s autocratic tendencies and opened the way to successful reform efforts once  Mečiar left office in 1998.

Prof. James Krapfl then discussed the Slovak transition.  He pointed out that most studies of revolutions ignore their most important actors:  the citizens, without whom a democratic system of government cannot (by definition) be created.  He explained how citizens  across Slovakia took myriad concrete steps in 1989 and the early 1990s to create a democratic political culture.  He pointed out the social, geographic, and temporal patterns in the revolutionary process, explaining how and why the joyous sense of unity that characterized 1989 gave way to frustration, factionalism, and in some quarters despair—though never to the point of Slovak citizens becoming incapable of concerted action for the sake of the public good.  He described how the civil society forged in the Slovak revolution of 1989 has proved remarkably resilient, enabling the country to overcome repeated crises since becoming independent 25 years ago, and setting it apart from its neighbors.

Amb. Ted Russell (Ret.) speaking at the event. Dr. James Krapfl speaking at the event. Dr. James Krapfl speaking at the event with a presentation. Amb. Ted Russell (Ret.) and Dr. James Krapfl shaking hands.

Amb. Ted Russell (Ret.)Ambassador Theodore E. Russell (Ret.) served 36 years as a Foreign Service officer, including postings in Prague during the 1968 Prague Spring and Warsaw Pact invasion, and as Deputy Chief of Mission during the Velvet Revolution of 1989.  He then served as the first U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia  1993-96.  Since 2001, he has served as Founding Chairman of Friends of Slovakia, a non-profit organization of volunteers promoting U.S.-Slovak friendship.

Dr. James KrapflProf. James Krapfl teaches modern central and eastern European history at McGill  University in Montreal.  He is the author of Revolution with a Human Face:  Politics,  Culture, and Community in Czechoslovakia, 1989-1992 (Slovak edition 2009, English  edition 2013), which won the George Blażyca Prize for the best book of 2013 in East  European studies, and the Czechoslovak Studies Association Prize for best book of  2013-14 in Czech and Slovak history.  He earned his Ph.D. in 2007 from the University of  California, Berkeley, and has conducted research in over 50 local, regional, and national  archives in the Slovak and Czech Republics.

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CEPA Forum 2017 in Washington DC Examines Atlanticism in a Time of Change

Slovak State Secretary, Ivan Korcok, speaking at the CEPA Forum. (Photo courtesy of CEPA)

Slovak State Secretary, Ivan Korcok, speaking at the CEPA Forum. (Photo courtesy of CEPA)

The annual transatlantic security conference organized by the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) has become the leading event in Washington D.C. focused on issues in Central and Eastern Europe. The theme of this year’s CEPA Forum 2017 was “Preserving Atlanticism in a Time of Change,” and was held on September 21-22 in Washington, D.C. The Forum was organized by CEPA in cooperation with the Embassy of Hungary and together with a number of corporate and non-profit supporters, including the Visegrad Fund, Friends of Slovakia (FOS) and American Friends of the Czech Republic. FOS has provided support to the Forum for the past several years. This year, Ivan Korcok, Slovak State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, and Dusan Fischer, Researcher with the Slovak Foreign Policy Assn., were featured speakers.

Ivan Korcok, Slovak State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

Ivan Korcok, Slovak State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. (Photo courtesy of CEPA)

Dusan Fischer, Researcher, Slovak Foreign Policy Assn. (Photo courtesy of CEPA)

Dusan Fischer, Researcher, Slovak Foreign Policy Assn. (Photo courtesy of CEPA)

The two-day conference presented several panels featuring experts and government officials discussing various aspects of transatlantic relations from a variety of perspectives, including those of the U.S, E.U. and the individual countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The first day panels held at the historic Willard Hotel examined issues such as: Strengthening the Visegrad Four (V-4); Reforming NATO for the 21 st Century; The Impact of U.S.-Russia Relations on Euro-Atlantic Security; the War of Narratives in the Information Age; U.S. and European Perspectives on Migration and Security. The second day of the conference was held at the Meridian International Center and focused more specifically on defense and military issues, particularly the threat to its neighbors arising from Russia’s recent actions. This second day of the CEPA Forum was off-the- record. You can view the full video of the first day conference sessions, by accessing http://cepaforum.org/home

 Dusan Fischer comments at the CEPA Forum (Photo courtesy of CEPA)


Dusan Fischer comments at the CEPA Forum (Photo courtesy of CEPA)

Dusan Fischer (center) participates in CEPA Forum panel on Migration and Security (Photo courtesy of CEPA)

Dusan Fischer (center) participates in CEPA Forum panel on Migration and Security (Photo courtesy of CEPA)

Lt. General Ben Hodges, Commander, U.S. Army Europe (center) at the CEPA Forum, with (left) Karin Shuey, Washington, DC Director of the Estonian American National Council and (right) Ken Bombara, Vice Chairman, Friends of Slovakia.

Lt. General Ben Hodges, Commander, U.S. Army Europe (center) at the CEPA Forum, with (left) Karin Shuey, Washington, DC Director of the Estonian American National Council and (right) Ken Bombara, Vice Chairman, Friends of Slovakia.

 

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Our values are our strongest survival weapon

President Andrej Kiska speaking at the Global Security Forum 2017

On Friday, President Andrej Kiska held a speech at the annual GLOBSEC Bratislava Global Security Forum:

“It’s been only few hours since I came back from NATO summit in Brussels. This one was highly anticipated. Not surprisingly — it was the first summit of head of states and governments with the participation of the new US president. And let’s be honest, in months since the US elections many of us in this room were worried about what to expect. Fortunately, our transatlantic bond is as strong as ever. We stick together, we guard each other’s back. The Alliance remains the backbone of our security. And moreover, we have a new ally on board — Montenegro.

All 28 member states are determined to fulfill their share of responsibility. This is also important for me personally as the president of the Slovak Republic. Some of you may know that I’ve been very vocal about the half-hearted attitude of our authorities towards our NATO commitments. So I was pleased to announce yesterday in Brussels that the government approved Slovak contribution to securing our allies in the Baltics through so-called enhanced forward presence. Moreover, we will join up fighting terrorism efforts of the Alliance by deploying Slovak troops to Iraq.”

President Kiska spoke on three points:
“First: we struggle lately to maintain institutions of the West — be it NATO or the EU — as fellowship of truly democratic countries based on common values.

Second, we allowed the enemies of the free world to get into our heads, to meddle too much in our own affairs.

Third, we let our elections to be deformed into a survival game of our democratic destiny.”

Read the entire speech on Global Security Forum website:

http://www.globsec.org/globsec2017/news/kiska-at-globsec-our-values-are-our-strongest-survival-weapon

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