Spring's End: 50 Years Since The Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia

Spring's End: 50 Years Since The Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia

Throughout much of 1968, the government of Czechoslovakia, led by Communist Party chief Alexander Dubček, carried out an extraordinary and fateful experiment.


Believing that more economic, political, and cultural openness would reinvigorate the communist project, Dubček set about constructing what he, and the intellectuals who backed him, called “socialism with a human face.” Censorship eased, more competitive elections were proposed, economic decisions would be cautiously decentralized.

Moscow was incensed. The Kremlin saw Dubček’s idealistic tinkerings with Soviet orthodoxy as an existential threat to the Kremlin’s hold over the Eastern Bloc. And so fifty years ago last night, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev sent half a million troops into Czechoslovakia to snuff out what had become known as “the Prague Spring.” Dubček was arrested and deposed. The Soviets would stick around, heavily resented, for two decades.

Why did it matter back then? The invasion made it clear that no reform of socialism was possible, marking a turning point at which many intellectuals behind the Iron Curtain made the perilous leap into outright opposition. One of those intellectuals was a young Czech playwright named Václav Havel. It would take nearly a quarter of a century for the work of those dissidents to bear fruit, but the seeds were sown in August of 1968.

Why does it matter now? For years the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia confirmed for many in Central Europe that a chronically imperial Russia would never fully respect their sovereignty. After communism fell in 1989, that fear drove them to seek EU and NATO membership. But today, amid growing friction between the region and Brussels over European values and rules, polls show that close to 40 percent of Czechs and Slovaks, along with more than 20 percent of Hungarians and Poles, say Russia can be a valuable partner in pushing back against an overbearing EU.

The impact of Covid-19 is being felt in every household, changing the way we live our lives. The pandemic continues to reinforce the drive for cooperation between communities, governments and businesses in order to combat the threat.

Microsoft responded to the pandemic in its home state through efforts like donating protective equipment, making boxed lunches for families and using technology to better understand the spread of the virus over the last year. Now, we're sharing six ways Microsoft is pulling together with the community to lend a hand to fellow Washingtonians in 2021 including helping with vaccination efforts. To read more, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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The Biden administration's much ballyhooed Earth Day Summit this week promises to be revealing. We're going to learn a little about what additional action a few dozen of the world's largest emitters are willing to take on climate change, and a lot more about which countries are willing to take such action at the behest of the United States.

Call it a situational assessment of the status of American power just shy of Biden's 100th day in office.

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Watch the episode: Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

Ian Bremmer and Bill Maher discussed the global leadership of the United States compared to that of China on a recent episode of Real Time. "The level of corruption in China, the level of corruption in China, even the buildings and the rails you talk about - the average building the Chinese build lasts for 20, 25 years. In the United States, it lasts for 40 to 50. There's a reason why we are still the world's most powerful country," Ian argued. "I'm just saying China's not eating our lunch - that's all."

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your beautiful spring week from New York City. A little Quick Take. I thought I'd talk today about Russia, going to be in the news this week. Putin doesn't like it when they're out of the news for too long, certainly plenty going on between the US and Russia right now.

I'd say, first of all, to start off, the relationship is in the toilet. We know this. It is the worst it's been since the early '80s. That was true even under Trump. Trump and Putin personally had a pretty good relationship, but Trump wasn't able to get anything really done for the Russians, because both the Republicans in Congress, key members of cabinet under Trump, massive amount of constraints on what Trump could actually do, whether it's trying to bring Russia back into the G7 or recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, or remove or reduce sanctions. None of that actually got done. In fact, the relationship deteriorated over the four years.

But now we've got Biden and the focus is of course, more on human rights. The focus is more on climate change, which means that Russia as a massive energy exporter and particularly in terms of their influence on Eastern Europe and Western Europe on the downstream for gas delivery, for example, something that Biden is much more focused on. So a lot more pressure on the Russians, and the Russians don't care. Their willingness to hit back and show that the Americans are not willing to take any significant risks to constrain the Russians is also fairly significant. And this is playing out in a number of ways.

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