Donald Trump has made headlines this week by calling on America’s NATO allies to increase their defence spending. His words have met with a mixed response here in the Czech Republic, with some acceptance that armaments purchases must be stepped up – but questions surrounding the speed and focus of such spending.
NATO regards a Czech commitment to increase defence spending to 2 percent
of GDP by the year 2024 as credible, according to the Czech ambassador to
the alliance, Jiří Šedivý. In an interview with Czech Television after
US President Donald Trump called on Europe to boost its outlay on its
defence, Mr. Šedivý said the Czech Republic was neither among the best or
the worst as regards weapons purchases.
This was borne out by the fact that it was not among those countries to receive a letter from Mr. Trump calling on them to contribute more to collective defence, the Czech official said.
The Czech Republic will not change its plans regarding defence spending
following a NATO summit in Brussels, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said on
Thursday. The Prague government will therefore continue increasing defence
spending with a view to reaching the equivalent of 2 percent of gross
domestic product by the year 2024.
U.S. President Donald Trump had pushed for accelerated spending on weapons at the two-day summit. Mr. Babiš said he had told Mr. Trump that it was important to speak about absolute expenditures on armaments.
The acting Czech minister of foreign affairs, Jan Hamáček, who was also at the summit, said attention should be paid to Mr. Trump’s arguments regarding the amount the U.S. was spending on Europe’s defence.
Experts from Europe and the US met in Prague this week to discuss the hybrid war threat and ways of countering disinformation campaigns against Western countries. In an interview for Czech Radio the head of NATO’s Military Committee, General Petr Pavel, said the Czech Republic underestimates the dangers of the hybrid war waged by Russia.
Leading members of the right-wing opposition have criticised prime minister
in resignation Andrej Babiš, alleging he was flip-flopping or
backpedalling on the strike against Syria by US, British and French forces.
On Saturday, the prime minister said the strike had been inevitable but a day later, after a meeting with the president, he suggested that the strike had resolved nothing.
During a work visit to the region of Karlovy Vary on Monday, he then called the threat of additional strikes a deterrent against the use of chemical weapons.
The apparent changes in his stance drew fire from long-time political rival Miroslav Kalousek of TOP 09, who suggested he could respect someone with a differing but firm position but not a politician who - in his view - changed his mind one day to the next.
One of the Czech Republic's most respected military representatives,
the chairman of the NATO Military Committee General Petr Pavel was
presented the Legion of Merit last week by the U.S. Marine Corps General
Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The official
ceremony took place in Virginia on March 8; the Legion of Merit is the
highest award American leaders can bestow on foreigners. More than 250
service members participated in the ceremony.
The story was reported by the Czech News Agency on Sunday.
General Petr Pavel has served as chairman of the Military Committee since June 2015, a period when NATO has reemphasized deterrence in the face of the growing Russian threat, such as Russia's intervention in Ukraine.
Pavel will relinquish the job of chairman to British Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the chief of staff of the British Armed Forces, on June 29 of this year.
The chief of NATO's Military Committee, General Petr Pavel, has told
the Russian news agency TASS he is “cautiously optimistic” with regard
to the possibility of improving relations between NATO and Russia.
Asked whether he believes that NATO and Russia can overcome the present period of tense relations and leave behind them the legacy of the Cold War, General Pavel said such a chance existed, but it needed developing a more intense dialogue on specific issues. He said the present agenda during bilateral contacts was vague and a fresh impetus was needed to move the relationship forward.
Relations between NATO and Russia soured after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 when NATO broke off military cooperation with Russia.
Twenty-three EU member states, including the Czech Republic, have signed up to a European pact on defence cooperation called Pesco (Permanent Structured Cooperation). The deal, to be formally launched in December, is likely to cover everything from troops and arms to new defence projects, with varying input from different countries.