One Hundred Years After

Dear Readers,

In January 1918 the US President Woodrow Wilson delivered a landmark speech to the Congress. In his speech—that became known as Fourteen Points—he de ned war goals and peace terms that created a framework for ceasefire in November 1918 and 1919 Paris peace agreements. He employed a concept of self-determination of nations and thus paved a way for creation of independent states on the ruins of Austro-Hungarian Empire. It applied most prominently to new republics of Poland and Czechoslovakia. A century later, is it not only for historians to judge the merits of Wilsonian idealism. How do we read a heritage of Wilsonian policy in current circumstances where the US has moved from Wilson to Trump and instead of Masaryk’s Czechoslovakia we have Zeman’s Czechia?

Woodrow Wilson was right in analyzing that it was economic protectionism and secret diplomatic deals which led to horrors of the Great War. As it happens to idealists, he was better in analysis than in finding a remedy. He envisaged a postwar international order based on free trade and transparent multilateral agreements which brought to life a League of Nations—a precursor of United Nations. The League proved to be toothless to prevent an outbreak of yet another war of global dimensions.

What kind of practical lessons can we draw today from successes and failures of Wilson’s policies? In June we plan a conference dedicated to challenges of self-determination and free trade in current European context. Already in this issue of Aspen Review you can find a several reflections of Wilson’s heritage.

Constance and Brendan Simms explain how international system based on Fourteen Points was rolled back by Hitler. After 1945 and 1989 we failed to create a system of shared values in Europe that would embed Ger- many and contain Russia.

Herfried Münkler examines a concept of self-determination from the historical context to current repercussions (Catalonia, South Tyrol, etc). Michał Kobosko draws an interesting parallel related to port of Gdansk: a century ago it was in focus as the main access to sea for Poland, today it means access point to energy via LNG terminal.

On a more general note, Jiří Pehe asks whether the current rise of nationalist politicians and resistance to economic globalization is a long-term trend or just a temporary backlash. Finally, I would like to bring your attention to the dialogue of Liz Corbin and Konrad Niklewicz about now notoriously debated issue of “fake news.”

I wish you a good read!

Jiří Schneider

Jiří Schneider entered public life after democratic changes in 1989 when he was elected to the Czechoslovak Parliament (Federal Assembly) in 1990 and 1992. In 1993 he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and held various positions at the Czech diplomatic service. Most prominently he served as Ambassador to Israel (1995-1998) and First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic (2010-2014).


Jiří Schneider graduated at The Czech Technical University (ČVUT) and obtained a Diploma in Religious Studies from University of Cambridge. From 2000 to 2009 he lectured on security studies, international relations, public policy, and the role of think tanks in Central Europe at Charles University in Prague, Masaryk University in Brno, and New York University in Prague. During the International Policy Fellowship at the Central European University in Budapest he published on Think Tanks in Visegrad Countries (2003) and Lobbying and Interest Representation (2007). He was closely associated with the Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI), a leading Czech security think tank, as a Program Director (2005-2010) and most recently as a Senior Fellow and Director of Special Projects (2014-2015).


Jiří’s engagement with Aspen dates back to the early 90ʼs when he was a fellow of Aspen Institute Germany. More recently he supported the establishment of Aspen Institute Prague and served as a member of its Supervisory Board from 2011 to 2014.

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