Washington Examiner

Czech leader urges Russian surveillance, evoking Japanese American internment.

Western Intelligence Services Urged to Keep a Close Eye on Russian Citizens Abroad

Czech President Petr Pavel has called for Western intelligence services to maintain strict surveillance on Russian citizens living abroad. In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Pavel emphasized the need for heightened security measures during times of ongoing conflict. He stated, “All Russians living in Western countries should be monitored much more than in the past.”

Engaging with Russian Opposition Figures

Pavel also stressed the importance of engaging with Russian opposition figures and dissidents to gain insights into Russia from a Western perspective. However, despite acknowledging the existence of a Russian diaspora of approximately 1.3 million people, Pavel expressed caution even towards those who have left Russia since the full-scale invasion began last year.

He stated, “They are citizens of a nation that leads an aggressive war. I can sympathize with the people, but we must also remember that during the Second World War, the Japanese population living in the United States was subjected to strict monitoring.”

Lessons from History

Pavel’s reference to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II raises concerns about potential abuses of civil rights. The establishment of internment camps by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is widely regarded as a grave violation of American civil liberties. Pavel’s remarks serve as a reminder of the dangers of repeating such actions during times of war.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s warning that history could repeat itself is particularly relevant. He cautioned, “You are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again. It was wrong, but I would not be surprised to see it happen again in a time of war. It’s no justification, but it is the reality.”

Understanding the Russian Perspective

Pavel’s comments highlight the specific focus on Russian citizens and his belief in Putin’s widespread support among the Russian population. He stated, “We have to call it a Russian war when we see the support President Putin enjoys and how many people are even calling for extending the war to other countries.”

Despite his skepticism towards Putin’s willingness to engage in dialogue, Pavel expressed hope that as the situation develops and Ukraine becomes more successful in its counteroffensive, the Russian leadership may adopt a different position. He emphasized the importance of pragmatic negotiations and understanding the rationale behind Russian actions.

A Strong Trans-Atlantic Consensus

Pavel, a retired army general and former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, was elected as the Czech Republic’s president in January. His victory was seen as a reinforcement of the trans-Atlantic consensus in support of Ukraine. Czech officials have played a leading role in Europe’s efforts to support Ukraine over the past year.

Pavel concluded by stating that isolating Russia entirely would be shortsighted. He advocated for engaging with Russian opposition figures and offering opportunities for dialogue once the war is over. By understanding their perspectives, he believes that effective measures and proposals can be developed.

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