Czech officials “getting nervous” over long lack of US ambassador

US Embassy in Prague

The last US ambassador to Prague shipped out just over a year ago, when Joe Biden was inaugurated president. However, his administration is yet to send a replacement, leading to reports that the Czech government is now pushing for Washington to send a new representative to Prague. I discussed the matter with journalist Daniel Anýž, an expert on Czech-US relations.

“Unfortunately it’s a standard situation, because around half of US ambassadors to embassies and different institutions are political appointees.

“That means all of them have to leave once a president from the other party is elected.

“Czechia belongs to those countries which have political appointees.

“The last career diplomat here was Adrian Basora, who was nominated in 1992, and since him all the others were political appointees.

“So we are not the only country where you don’t have ambassadors yet.

“Unfortunately what is a bit strange at this moment is that we don’t even know the name of a nominee.

Jennifer Bachus | Photo: US Embassy in Prague

“This creates a notion that they don’t care that much in Washington, at the White House, that they don’t have an ambassador in Prague.”

Currently the embassy in Prague is headed by a charge d’affaires. In practical terms how much of a drawback is it that there isn’t an ambassador in place?

“On the practical level, the working level, it doesn’t make that big a difference.

“Because I’m sure that the charge d’affaires, who is now Jennifer Bachus, is very experienced and can handle the agenda.

“But then you have the symbolic level, the fact that in the tough negotiations that are now going on around the crisis with Russia and Ukraine you would need an ambassador, like an umbrella, like a head and a representative who can deal with our foreign minister and maybe our president, if he would like to meet the US ambassador at all.

“So on one level, speaking about practical negotiations like whether the US company Westinghouse will take part in the tender for Dukovany [nuclear power station unit], the charge d’affaires and the political and diplomatic staff of the embassy are quite sufficient.

“But on the level of representation and for top meetings an ambassador should be here.

“And I know that the Czech Foreign Ministry is getting a bit nervous about what’s going on.”

This week the Czech minister of defence, Jana Černochová, told Seznam Zprávy that the absence of a US ambassador for so long could be a “signal”. If she’s right, what is it a signal of?

Daniel Anýž | Photo: Jana Přinosilová,  Czech Radio

“I’m afraid it’s a signal that the White House is occupied with a lot of other things, with a lot of crises, mainly inside the USA.

“Unfortunately with the polarisation of US domestic politics it became quite… I wouldn’t call it isolationist, but they don’t have enough time to care about allies.

“That’s a clear fact. The signal is, We have to take care of our politics – you are a reliable ally, but at the same time not so important that we have to send you an ambassador.

“But we’re not the only ones. In Germany they already named the ambassador but she hasn’t arrived yet.

“So you have Germany, with this crisis with Russia, without an ambassador.

“You also have Ukraine without an ambassador. Finland. Romania.

“So it’s not only us. And the general signal, not only to the Czech Republic, is, Wait a minute, we have other stuff to do.”