The Czech government on Monday confirmed it had agreed to allow US military personnel and vehicles returning from a NATO operation in the Baltic states to travel across the Czech Republic to a military base in Germany. The operation, titled Atlantic Resolve, was a show of force and solidarity for NATO countries bordering Russia, nervous over that country’s intervention in Ukraine.
The Czech government has agreed to a US military convoy to travel across Czech territory to Germany between March 29 and April 1 2015. The convoy – made up of 516 personnel and almost 120 vehicles – is returning from the Baltic states after taking part in the operation Atlantic Resolve. One aim of the operation – and the presence of the US military – was to demonstrate the strength and solidarity of NATO in the Baltics, in the face of Russian intervention in Ukraine. In the Czech Republic, the convoy will travel along three routes and then regroup near Prague before heading on to Plzeň and to a military base in Bavaria. Czech military police, police and customs officers are to provide assistance. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka confirmed on Monday that allowing US forces to travel on Czech soil was a show of solidarity with the Baltic states and also Poland which have felt threatened by Russia given the developments in Ukraine.
With escalating tensions between the West and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Czech top officials have welcomed the possible extension of the US-European operation Atlantic Resolve to the Czech Republic. The Czech prime minister said his country had a vested interest in joint military training with NATO allies and could offer some of its bases for this purpose.
The Czech Republic has a vested interest in partaking in joint military exercises of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said in Thursday in response to the news that the US was considering expanding Operation Atlantic Resolve to cover the Czech Republic, Hungary and Russia's southern neighbor, Georgia. Exercises between US troops and Polish, Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian forces began last April at these countries’ request as deterrence to possible Russian aggression. The Czech Prime minister said the country would offer to host some of the exercises at its military bases.
Separately, police detained on Wednesday the former general secretary of the defence ministry, Jan Vylita, according to the news server Aktualne.CZ. The move is being connected with the police swoop on a ministry building on Tuesday in which four people were charged concerning the illegal transfer of property. Vylita’s security clearance was removed last month by Czech authorities meaning that he had to quit his job as one of main auditors at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels.
A top Czech official at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels has lost his security clearance from the domestic National Security Authority (NBÚ), according to media reports. Jan Vylita is one of a top six member team at NATO which carries out audits of its various activities. He previously had clearance to see ‘secret’ dossiers and had asked in 2013 for that to be upgraded to ‘top secret.’ The NBÚ has, however, revoked his clearance completely citing non-specified actions against Czech interests taken when he was working at the Ministry of Defense in the post of general manager between 2010 and 2013. It is not yet clear whether Vylita will lose his NATO post as a result.
The chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces Petr Pavel has threatened to step down over a dispute with the Defence Minister Martin Stropnický. In a commentary for the daily Právo on Friday, Mr Pavel, who is to become the new head of NATO’s Military Committee in summer, said he was ready to resign if he was to be an obstacle to normal functioning of the government. The relationship between Mr Pavel and the Defence Minister Martin Stropnický has worsened in the past few weeks over the appointment of new head of the Czech military police.
The Czech Republic is planning to contribute 150 soldiers to NATO’s new Spearhead Force next year, the country’s foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, said after a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday. The government will decide on their deployment in concrete operations and inform Parliament if it does so. The creation of the Spearhead Force is an interim measure; at a summit in September NATO agreed to create a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which will begin operations in 2016 and could quickly mobilise if an alliance country comes under attack in Eastern Europe.
Czech President Miloš Zeman continues to stir controversy in the international arena. After criticising the EU’s sanctions against Moscow and questioning Russia’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, Mr Zeman has now suggested that Ukraine should drop its NATO aspirations. Instead, he argues, Ukraine should emulate Finland’s neutrality of the Cold War era.
The Czech Republic is an active and stable member of NATO, the recently appointed secretary general of the alliance Jens Stoltenberg told Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnický. The officials met in Brussels on Friday. Mr Stropnický said his country’s positive image within NATO was the result of Czech soldiers’ participation in foreign missions. The Czech Republic has been criticized for failing to meet its commitment to spend two percent of its GDP on defence. But Mr Stropnický said the Czech government’s plans to gradually increase defence spending to 1.4 percent of GDP by the year 2020 have been well received.
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