At Prague Castle on Tuesday senior Czech politicians addressed a ceremony marking exactly 20 years of the country’s membership in NATO. The country’s prime minister said the alliance needed to be more active in some regards but described membership as crucial, while the foreign minister highlighted the threat posed by Russia.
In the spring of 1989, the dissident Václav Havel was in prison and the Czechoslovak army was preparing for a possible clash with Western imperialists under the banner “With the Soviet Union forever.” A decade later, on March 12, 1999, President Havel presided over the Czech Republic’s entry into the NATO military alliance, embracing the collective security while noting it would not come without sacrifice.
The Czech Republic is marking the 20th anniversary of its entry into NATO
on March 12th, 1999. It joined the alliance together with Poland and
Hungary in NATO’s first expansion eastwards after the fall of communism
in Central and Eastern Europe. The celebrations, which include gatherings,
debates and exhibitions, are culminating at Prague Castle where President
Miloš Zeman is hosting heads of state, NATO representatives and foreign
Foreign visitors, government officials and NATO representatives have been addressing a security conference held to mark the anniversary. In his speech, Prime Minister Andrej Babis highlighted the fact that NATO membership is in the Czech Republic’s vested interest since it provides a guarantee of security. He said the Czech Republic would meet its commitment to spend two percent of the country’s GDP on defence by 2024.
Speakers addressing the conference cited international terrorism, Russia’s expansionist ambitions and cyber warfare as the main threats facing NATO today.
Among the VIP guests attending the celebrations are the former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright who was a leading voice in advocating for expansion of the military alliance to central Europe. She is among 14 people who will receive the Medal of Merit Award for Diplomacy from Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček.
Twenty years ago history was made in Independence, Missouri. Three post-communist countries officially entered the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland were the first former members of the Warsaws Pact to join NATO. Why was the small US Midwestern city selected as the best place for the main official event on that significant day?
President Miloš Zeman has said that the main benefit of NATO membership is
the security guarantees it provides.
Speaking in an interview for the CTK news agency on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s entry to NATO, President Zeman said the main threat facing the alliance today is international terrorism.
He said in this connection that he would support a re-enforcement of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan.
He criticized peace-talks with the Taliban, comparing them to the policy of appeasement of the Western powers at the outset of WWII.
An agreement with the Taliban would mean that it would once again make Afghanistan a base for international terrorism, Zeman warned.
Twenty years ago this Tuesday, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary became the first former Eastern Bloc countries to join NATO, with Slovakia entering five years later, when all four joined the EU. The anniversary will be marked with pomp and circumstance, honours for those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and debate over how to face new threats to collective security.
Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is in Prague to mark the
20th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s accession to NATO. She was a
leading voice in advocating for expansion of the military alliance to
In the coming days, the Czech-born Albright will take part in various events marking the anniversary and discussing NATO’s legacy and current role. She will also present her latest book, Fascism: A Warning.
On Monday, Albright is due to hold a public discussion with former diplomat Michael Žantovský at the Law Faculty of Charles University.
On Tuesday, the anniversary of Czech membership in NATO, she will take part in an international forum at Prague Castle. She is among 14 people who will receive the new Medal of Merit Award for Diplomacy handed over by Minister of Foreign Affairs Tomáš Petříček .
The main threats for NATO in the present day are Russia, China and
cyberwarfare, the US ambassador to Prague, Stephen King, said at a seminar
in the Czech lower house marking 20 years since the country joined NATO.
The US ambassador said Putin’s regime was one of creeping aggression, citing its conflict with Georgia, the annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. China, the ambassador said, used business to further the country’s strategic interests.
Ambassador King called on the Czech Republic to honor its commitments to NATO to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense. Foreign minister Tomáš Petříček said the country could realistically fulfill this commitment by 2024.
Czech President Miloš Zeman attended a meeting of heads of state of the
Bucharest Nine, the countries making up the eastern flank of NATO, hosted
by Slovak president in Košice on Thursday. The main objective of the
meeting, which was also attended by NATO Secretary General Jens
Stoltenberg, was to commemorate the 70th anniversary of NATO and to discuss
the current security situation in Europe and its neighbourhood.
During the meeting with his counterparts, Czech President Miloš Zeman defended the military mission in Afghanistan, head of the president's foreign policy team Rudolf Jindrák wrote in Twitter.
Following a bilateral meeting with Mr Stoltenberg, Slovak president Andrej Kiska said it was crucial to discuss defence and security in peacetime, since it was the obligation of any government to provide security for its citizens.
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