In Prague’s Wenceslas Square some 1500 people demonstrated yesterday, Saturday 29th March, against Operation “Dragoon Ride” in which US army personnel and equipment are crossing Czech Republic territory starting today on the way to their German base. Speeches were given by several anti-war organisations, including the Communist Party and World without Wars and Violence all of which spoke highly critically of the government for the way that the decision to allow this procession has been made without going through parliament and knowing that 70% of the population is against the presence of foreign troops.
What concerns the demonstrators apart from being an unnecessary show of strength is that this troop build-up looks like a step towards a war that implicates the whole of Europe.
Demonstrators did not allow themselves to be provoked by dozens of counter-protesters with American, Ukrainian and NATO flags who came to threaten the speakers.
Most organisations present agreed that the only way towards peace is to exit NATO which they consider to be an instrument of the USA to justify aggressive foreign policy. Dana Feminova, speaking for World without Wars and Violence said, “Although I don’t share the opinions of Putin in many areas, I have to agree with the analysis of our former President Klaus who said that Russia has no responsibility for the Ukrainian crisis.”
The atmosphere among protesters is one of great concern. Some have compared what is happening now to the invasion by Nazi Germany in 1938 after the Conference of Munich in which the then Czechoslovakia was handed over to Hitler by France and the UK.
It is certainly true that the last time tanks entered Prague, they were Soviet ones coming to crush moves to democracy and before that they were Hitler’s tanks so the presence of foreign military vehicles on the streets, far from reassuring people is making them nervous.