Defense minister: Ukraine crisis a threat to EU & NATO security

The current crisis in Ukraine represents a serious security risk for both the European Union and NATO, the Czech Defense Minister Martin Stopnický has said. Speaking at a meeting in Bratislava, he stressed it would be necessary to increase defense spending; he also made clear he strongly supported increased military cooperation by the Visegrad countries, backing a plan to form a joint combat unit of up to 4,000 soldiers by 2016. Earlier this week, the defense minister caused a major stir at home when he suggested NATO troops might be less than welcome on Czech soil, especially by those who still remembered the historic occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops. Mr Stropnický came under fire from the opposition as well as members of the government and was forced to backtrack. He put forward a declaration in the lower house emphasising the Czech Republic’s commitment to NATO and common defense.