Press Advisories

27. 3. 2015 22:17

Prime Minister's statement regarding the transit of the allied troops' convoy

Premiér Sobotka, ministr obrany Stropnický a generálmajor Malenínský na tiskové konferenci k průjezdu konvoje aliančních vojsk, 27. března 2015.
Prime Minister Sobotka, Defence Minister Stropnický and General Major Malenínský at a press conference regarding the transit of a convoy of allied troops, 27 March 2015.
On Friday, 27 March 2015, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka appeared together with Defence Minister Martin Stropnický and and Czech Army General Staff Deputy Chief František Malenínský at a joint press conference regarding the transit of U.S. troops through the Czech Republic from 29 March to 1 April 2015.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The transit of the U.S. Army convoy across our territory is attracting attention and prompting a public discussion. Public debate and differences of opinion belong to a democratic and free society. People have not always been able to freely discuss topics in the past, and we are thinking of this even today and should enjoy free debate.

Unfortunately, we do not live in a safe world, and so it is logical that citizens are actively interested in issues regarding our security. Security issues are a priority for our government as well.

The U.S. soldiers crossing the Czech Republic are returning from their exercises in the Baltics to their bases in Germany. This needs to be understood in connection with the measures that NATO has adopted in reaction to the conflict in Ukraine and the worsening security situation in Eastern Europe.

It is important to point out certain facts. It was Russia that breached international law and annexed part of a neighbouring country's territory. It was Russia that breached Ukraine's sovereignty and breached security guarantees that it had given that country in the past. The Czech Republic supports a peaceful and diplomatic resolution of the crisis in Ukraine. The European Union has the same stance. But we cannot in any case overlook the importance of ensuring the security of both our country and our friends and allies.

NATO decided collectively last September that it would take specific steps to ensure and strengthen the security of allies in Eastern Europe. These include in particular the Baltic states, which feel threatened by the situation in Ukraine.

NATO's main measures include increasing the number of military exercises and rotations of allied troops in the region, and there is also more intensive movements of the alliance's troops across the territory of allies, including the Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic fully supports these measures and is getting actively involved in them. One of the ways we are doing so is by allowing allied troops to transit through our territory. This is a matter of allied solidarity.

Nonetheless, we should not be holding discussions regarding our security only during times when U.S. troops are crossing our territory. Our government is making an effort to discuss the issue of security actively with the public and mainly to take specific steps to ensure the safety of our country and our citizens.

The events in Eastern Ukraine and in the Middle East show that we cannot take our security for granted.

On this occasion, I would like to emphasise that thanks to our membership in NATO, the Czech Republic has the most reliable security guarantees in its history. This is an unprecedented assurance of our security.

Many of us regard as one of the most painful tragedies in our history the year 1938, when the world turned their backs to us, and our alliance agreements did not function. At that time there was no effective system of collective security, and we remained alone against an aggressive totalitarian regime. We subsequently lost our own state, and hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens were imprisoned and murdered. That must never happen again.

The Czech Republic, as a medium-sized European country with limited resources, can fully ensure its security only in cooperation with its allies as part of a reliable alliance system.

We joined NATO voluntarily with an expectation of security guarantees. In particular, Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states that an attack on one member of NATO shall be considered an attack on all members, under the motto: "One for all, all for one." By joining NATO, we also made specific commitments towards our allies, namely that we would develop our armed forces, fulfil our obligations as a member of the alliance and participate in joint defence.

Enabling the transit of allied troops through our territory is one of these obligations. We must actively care for our defence and invest into the development of our alliance.

Last year, the coalition parties decided that following years of sharply declining spending on defence, we would gradually increase the army's budget to 1.4% of GDP by 2020. We must provide adequate financial resources for the modernisation of our military technology and in order to ensure quality military personnel.

Our Gripen aircraft have been participating in the protection of the air space of our allies who do not have supersonic aircraft. Our pilots have been playing an active role in the Baltics and over Iceland.

We have been participating actively in military exercises and serving in missions abroad.

I would appreciate if we could understand the transit of the American convoy mainly as a reminder of our responsibilities towards our allies, the need for solidarity among the allies and mainly responsibility for our security.

Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic

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