Friday, 21 September 2018

Czechs present rising defence spending plan in NATO

ČTK |
12 July 2018

Brussels, July 11 (CTK) - The Czech Republic has presented a trustworthy plan of increasing its defence budget and modernisation of its armed forces, specifically the plans of investments, in NATO, Czech ambassador to NATO Jiri Sedivy told journalists on Wednesday.

Along with the growing participation of Czech troops in NATO operations, this means that the Czech Republic does have not to feel ashamed of anything, Sedivy.

"We have stopped the fall and in the past three years, we increased the defence spending in real figures," Sedivy said.

Prague is not among the capitals of several European countries to which Washington sent the letters criticising their small defence budgets before the summit.

With its defense spending of 1.04 percent of GDP last year, the Czech Republic is among the countries that are the farthest from the set target of 2 percent of GDP.

Sedivy said the form of the statistics was also influenced by the Czech economic growth.

The question of defence expenditures is one of the key topics of the NATO summit on Wednesday and on Thursday, held for the first time in the new NATO headquarters in Brussels.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been increasingly critical of the European allies over their low defence spending.

The USA cannot serve as a world's "piggy bank" from which defence is paid, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said recently.

One can see a Czech contribution to Wednesday's summit. It is the participation of two Mi-24/35 helicopters in the ceremonial flight over the venue of the summit, Sedivy said.

Sedivy said this was homage to the many years during which Czech soldiers were training helicopter pilots in Afghanistan.

"The second vital moment is the deployment of the second Czech contingent in advanced forces in the Baltics," Sedivy said.

The Czech mortar unit in Latvia will be joined by a mechanised company in Lithuania.

In both cases, this is part of the new, multinational battalions with which NATO has reacting to the cooling relations with Russia.

"Only few countries of our size have simultanously two units with this activity in two countries," Sedivy said.

He also spoke about the increased number of Czech troops in the mission in Afghanistan, where NATO is not fighting, but it supports the efforts of the local security forces.

The Czech Republic also presumes the work of the new logistics command in Ulm in Germany will be joined by the international logistics coordination centre which has been housed for several years in Prague.

The Czech Republic is represented at the summit by President Milos Zeman, but he was scheduled to come later.

During the working dinner of the NATO countries' head of state and government, attended by U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, Zeman talked about the necessity of a dialogue with Russia that would prevent the escalation of tension between both sides, Czech media reported.

Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovcacek tweeted in the evening that during the working dinner, Zeman "stressed the importance of cooperation in the fight against terrorism and in arms industry, he supported the rise in defence spending and warned of the effort to revive the Cold War."

On Thursday, Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) and Jan Hamacek, the Social Democrat (CSSD) acting foreign minister, are to come, too.

On Wednesday, Hamacek and Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar (for ANO) will be substituted by their deputies.

The composition of the Czech delegation was not clear for long and according to NATO diplomats, Hamacek received a phone call over the affair from Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg.

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