Tuesday, 21 August 2018

A grim anniversary

Fifty years ago we in the West heard the depressing news that the Prague Spring had been crushed by the forces of the USSR. From the University of Luxembourg’s CVCE.eu:

The Communist Party had held power in Czechoslovakia since the 1948 Prague coup. In January 1968, the Stalinist Antonin Novotný was overruled and replaced by Alexander Dubček, a liberal Communist who sought to reconcile Socialism and freedom. The liberalisation of the regime began in the spring of 1968. Censorship was abolished, and Czech citizens were permitted to travel abroad. The First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), Leonid Brezhnev, expressed his dissatisfaction, but Prague refused to comply. In fact, as the pressure increased, so did the liberalisation. On 21 August 1968, troops from the Warsaw Pact countries, with the exception of Romania, took advantage of extended training operations to invade Czechoslovakia and arrest the ‘deviant’ leaders. Although Dubček retained his post for a while after his release, he was soon to be replaced by the pro-Soviet Gustáv Husák, who oversaw a return to normality. 

The USSR had demonstrated once more that it would grant only limited sovereignty to its Socialist brothers. The Western powers and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) reacted to the invasion of Czechoslovakia only with declarations of regret.

In those days, the US and UK were all too ready to accept the doctrine of "spheres of influence", but even today - apart from a few pinpricks of sanctions - we seem unwilling to annoy Russia when president Putin sanctions expansion of Russia into former Soviet territory.

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