NATO's Secretary General, Lord Robertson, arrived in Prague on Wednesday for a two-day official visit, to discuss the Czech Republic's progress in harmonising its military forces with its Western partners. Lord Robertson, formerly Britain's Defence Minister, spent much of Wednesday day deep in talks with Czech officials, meeting Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and President Vaclav Havel. There was much to discuss, including modernisation of the Czech Army and plans for the next NATO summit, which will be held in Prague next year. But as Rob Cameron reports, George Robertson's visit has been dominated by a heated debate over whether the Czech Republic needs to buy new supersonic jet fighters for the outdated Czech Air Force.
Lord Robertson said he fully recognised the efforts made by the Czech Republic in transforming its armed forces over the last decade. The country has undergone a difficult transition since the overthrow of Communism in 1989: from Warsaw Pact stalwart to fully-fledged member of the North Atlantic Alliance. Speaking at a press conference after meeting the Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, Mr. Robertson had words of praise for the Czech military contribution in the Balkans:
But there were many other points on Mr Robertson's agenda: one of them being the creation of a new European defence force to supplement NATO's post-war role as guardian of European security. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan says Europe now has the financial means to start resolve its own disputes, without undermining NATO.
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