Anders Fogh Rasmussen: "The Czech Government must stop the decline of defence expenditure"

Autor: Nuala Casey, Oldrich Holecek

The NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited the Czech Republic on 10th April for the 15th anniversary of the country's accession to NATO, to discuss collective defence, defence investment, and the Ukraine crisis with the Czech Government and President Milos Zeman.

At the beginning of the press conference, following talks with the delegations, Anders Fogh Rasmussen praised the Czech military: "Your troops have made a valuable contribution to our missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo. You are fully involved in our Smart Defence efforts to develop modern military capabilities together."

In his address, Rasmussen continued with a statement regarding the situation in Ukraine saying: "We have just discussed Russia’s illegal aggression against Ukraine. For the first time since countries like the Czech Republic won their freedom, and the Cold War ended, we see one state trying to grab part of another’s territory at gunpoint. NATO considers this aggression illegal and illegitimate."

A considerable part of the talks between the Czech and NATO delegations was focused on defence investment and the ongoing decline in the defence budgets in many NATO countries. "Above all, we must stop the decline of our defence budgets, and start reinvesting in our security. Investing in defence has a cost, but we see that insecurity has a much higher price," said Rasmussen, referring to the present situation in Ukraine. He went on to add "...defence investments in the Czech Republic are too low."

SG Rasmussen called on the Czech Government to try to change its approach to the defence committments it had made to NATO.

Czech Prime Minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, in his address, confirmed that the Czech military was still capable of meeting meet all its obligations to the Alliance, but admitted that "since 2008, defence expenditure has declined by 24 per cent. Among NATO members it seems to be the most considerable slump."

The ambition of Sobotka's Government is to halt this negative trend and concentrate on spending economically the financial resources the military will have available. PM Sobotka said he believed that the keeping of an adequate defence budget would be one of the priorities in the Czech National Budget draft for 2015.

April 16, 2014