Russia Reconquers the Czechs

Russia Reconquers the Czechs

Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic, is legendary for his lack of manners. When his country assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union in 2009, Klaus—a stocky and vigorous man with close-cropped white hair and a fastidiously trimmed moustache—got into a scrap with a group of European politicians because he had refused to fly the EU flag above his office in Prague Castle. Nicolas Sarkozy pronounced the snub “hurtful,” yet Klaus was anything but contrite. Instead, he used his first address to the European Parliament to compare the EU to the Soviet Union. Tales of his unsubtle jabs at his political opponents are legion. Visiting the United States during the 2008 presidential campaign, Klaus, known and embraced by many Western conservatives as a fellow partisan, remarked to a reporter that he assumed Barack Obama wasn’t much of a beer man but “might drink those, how do you say? ... piña coladas.” His predecessor, Václav Havel, worked with him for many years and in his memoir described him variously as “utterly unbearable,” “this annoying fellow,” and “radiating a negative energy.” The British historian Timothy Garton Ash called Klaus “one of the rudest men I have ever met.”

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