When: Tuesday, May 26, 2020, 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EDT
What: In November 1989, Czechoslovak citizens took to the streets to call for an end to the repressive Communist regime, culminating in one of the most remarkable transfers of power in the 20th century. In just over a month, Czechs and Slovaks ousted the Communist government with the careful but powerful support of the U.S. Embassy in Prague in what became known as “the Velvet Revolution.” In his new book, “Democracy’s Defenders: U.S. Embassy Prague, the Fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia, and Its Aftermath,” Brookings Senior Fellow Norman Eisen examines the role of American diplomats in supporting the end of Communism three decades ago and promoting democratic values since. “Democracy’s Defenders” includes 52 never-before-seen U.S. diplomatic cables originating from this moment in history that shed new light on why the revolution was velvet—and on the role of American diplomats in helping to establish some of the conditions that made it so.
On May 26, Governance Studies at Brookings and the Transatlantic Democracy Working Group will co-host a webinar to discuss themes in Eisen’s latest book. Panelists will explore the role of the foreign service in advancing American values abroad, what we can learn from the successes and failures of U.S. foreign policy in Central and Eastern Europe over the past three decades, and the lessons foreign policy holds for all those facing the challenges of trans-Atlantic relations today. The talk will also focus on how American diplomacy and trans-Atlantic democracy has responded to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Today many of those same Czechs and Slovaks are walking the identical boulevards, now wearing masks—does the U.S. still support them in this latest crisis?