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20 May, 2011  ▪  Viktor Kaspruk

Eight Versions of the “Case of the Czech Diplomats”

President Viktor Yanukovych’s administration never fails to surprise its grace of a bull in a china shop

The expulsion of two Czech diplomats from Ukraine is a very important and even landmark step on the part of the current government. According to SBU spokeswoman Maryna Ostapenko, the Czechs were interested in information, including secret documents, about Ukraine’s designs of armored tanks and satellite navigation for the Oplot tanks, prospects for developing AN-70 and AN-178 aircraft, and progress with rocket systems developed for Russia by the Pidvenne Construction Bureau.

Curiously, “the case of the Czech diplomats,” aka “the case of the Czech spies,” coincided in time with the government-instigated scuffles on May 9 in Lviv. Even though there seems to be no direct link between the two events, the quickness with which the ruling party reacted suggests that Yanukovych wanted to do at least something to please his Moscow patrons. This is one of the many possible scenarios: punish both nationalist culprits and representatives of Europe.

If this is not a case of non-science fiction (something the SBU has been churning out during Yanukovych’s presidency) and if the Czechs were indeed interested in the rocket research Ukraine is doing for Russia, the Kremlin would have to appreciate the diligence of Yanukovych's team. This would send a powerful signal to Moscow: even though we are formally playing the Europe-and-Russia game and say were are preparing to join Europe, you know that in reality we are championing our common cause, which is to extend the “Russian World” across all of Ukraine.

Notably, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said that the diplomatic expulsion was “most likely revenge” on the Czech Republic for granting asylum to Bohdan Danylyshyn, the former economy minister the Yulia Tymoshenko government. This is the second scenario, which is supported by the fact that several days ago a new international NGO, Ukraine’s European Prospect, was launched in Prague. One of its main objectives is to rally Ukrainian citizens around the European system of values. Among its leaders is Danylyshyn, whom Yanukovych’s regime would rather see in a prison cell next to former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko.

The third version is that the Ukrainian government was spurred into action by Prague gradually taking over the functions Warsaw voluntarily performed for Ukraine almost throughout its independence. As Poland, led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk, started to scale down its cooperation with Ukraine and its civic society, the Czech Republic stepped up its efforts.

One proof of this is that Danylyshyn applied for political asylum in Prague rather than Warsaw. Considering how closely Poland had cooperated with Ukraine, Warsaw would seem to be his top option, but Danylyshyn must have feared that Poland could turn him down to avoid irking Moscow, whose puppets are running the show in Ukraine today.

Democracy in Ukraine is beginning to receive most of its support from Prague rather than Warsaw. Russia has not been able to influence the Czech Republic as much as Poland. In general, the diplomatic conflict may have far-reaching consequences, because it clearly undermines the friendly relations and understanding Ukraine has had with the Czech Republic over the past 20 years.

Under the fourth scenario, this incident should be viewed in a somewhat wider context as a struggle between the pro-Moscow and pro-Donetsk groups inside the Party of Regions. It appears that the latter group, whose commercial interests are in Europe rather than in Moscow, is beginning to give ground. In the future, this may reformat the political situation in Ukraine and push it into openly serving the interests of our aggressive northern neighbor.

The “Czech case” is also a signal to Europe showing that the Party of Regions has almost figured out what it is going to do with Ukraine. However, despite the official comments from both sides, the incident appears a bit strange. For one thing, the intelligence services of all countries routinely collect information, and similar incidents are always settled in a quiet, low-profile manner. Thus, the publicity regarding this case, which is far from the biggest “spy scandal” in Ukraine's history, suggests the Ukrainian government had other motives. Consider also the fact that secret documents can often be bought in Ukraine quietly at UAH6 each, according to the blog posts of the intelligence expert Andriy Masalovych.

If you take a closer look at information recently published about Ukraine, you will notice a series of other events. For example, an information leak about the Ukraine-Russia conflict over gas delivery to Europe in 2009 was aimed at focusing attention, both in Ukraine and the world, on our country’s unsolved problems.

The fifth interpretation of the “spy scandal” is much more intriguing. It has to do with Ukraine's forthcoming six-month presidency in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and Yanukovych's planned visit to Europe. The incident with the Czech diplomats will badly hurt Ukraine's chances of establishing efficient contacts with Europe and will frustrate plans announced by President Yanukovych to speed up Ukraine's associated membership in the EU.

Evidently, this kind of action is wanted by groups that favor distancing Ukraine from the EU and EU integration. Therefore, it should be interpreted more as a struggle among various pro-government groups, primarily in the Party of Regions, for certain political or economic leverage, keeping also in mind the role the SBU and its very special leaders have played in blowing up this story.

The sixth possible scenario has to do with other factors, mainly inside Ukraine. Yanukovych has been recently reported to be planning a major reshuffle in the Cabinet of Ministers and government agencies in what will be a “reform of reformers.” As a result, various groups close to the president will reshape their spheres of influence, which can have a major impact on Ukraine's domestic and foreign policies. Thus, it is quite possible that internal political struggle is the main cause behind this and several future actions. It is hard to say what they will be, but we are likely to see public scandals, perhaps even with an international dimension.

Yet another interpretation of the “Czech case” corroborates, rather than contradicts, the above version. The past several months have shown that despite all his sharp moves Yanukovych is increasingly distancing himself from everyday decision-making. This is no big news, because he has made a reputation for himself advocating titanic work to be done by others rather than by himself.

Nearly all political forces in Ukraine would welcome Yanukovych’s “maturing” into another Leonid Brezhnev, a ruler detached from reality, this time in conditions of advanced feudal capitalism. All the groups embezzling Ukraine's assets today will reap some benefits regardless of how long the “Donetsk clan” stays in power.

We should also remember that Stalin’s horrible repressions began with a spy mania. So the eighth scenario is that, aware of the catastrophic results of Yanukovych's rule, his administration wants to avoid responsibility at any cost and is preparing even harsher, massive repressions against opposition members.

These events are taking place at a time when Russia's FSB feels at home in Ukraine. However, the current leaders of the SBU close their eyes to this, just like they overlook the fact that after Yanukovych rose to power, the Russian Orthodox Church has been carrying out political, rather than religious, activities in Ukraine.

Another key question is what consequences this diplomatic demarche may have for the Ukrainian government. Yanukovych’s administration clearly wanted to show it was annoyed by the Czechs’ support of the Ukrainian opposition. The Ukrainian government may also have information about Ukraine’s European Prospect from other sources and is afraid that the advocates of Ukraine's democratic and European choice will finally manage to join forces.

However, if the masterminds of the diplomatic scandal were able to see at least several moves ahead, they would not be in a hurry. This decision will certainly boomerang on them. They must have forgotten that the small Czech Republic is now a member of powerful international organizations like the EU and NATO and that hostile moves against one of their members can be interpreted as pertaining to the entire alliance.

The Czech government has likely received another proof that its support of the pro-European and democratic forces in Ukraine is an absolutely correct and well-considered decision. The move by Yanukovych's administration move may turn out to be totally counterproductive. After democracy in Ukraine was curtailed, many people in Europe began to realize that denying Ukraine the prospect of EU membership was a mistake which precipitated the political crisis in the country and helped the Party of Regions come to power. The case of the Czech diplomats is another convincing proof of this.

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