Anne Applebaum’s Oct. 18 Sunday Opinion column, “Russia’s new kind of friends,” painted me as a pro-Russian politician who might be motivated by my companies’ alleged dependence on Russian natural gas. Let there be no doubt: My and my party’s policy has been clearly pro-Western and pro-NATO. The Czech Republic has benefited from European Union membership, and we want that to continue.
Any expressed skepticism on my part about the efficacy of sanctions against Russia or the European Union’s handling of the refugee crisis is part of a national and European dialogue that proceeds under the above understanding. I would never advocate a pro-Russian course of action. The Czech Republic is and must stay a pro-Western, transa tlantic-friendly, solidly European country.
The column strangely lumped me with Milos Zeman and Vaclav Klaus. The corruption and clientelism under their governments are what brought me into politics. Such corruption and clientelism are in the Russian interest. These men may have attended a pro-Russian conference, but I have not. Both may attend events at the Russian Embassy, but I do not. I do not travel to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and I have no friends there.
A negligible less than one-third of 1 percent of my companies’ business is with Russia, and they buy all their gas from German companies.
It is regrettable that Ms. Applebaum thinks I harbor some affinity for Russia and, worse, that I would allow myself to do Mr. Putin’s bidding in Europe. That is not the case.
Andrej Babis, Prague
The writer is minister of finance for the Czech Republic.