Czech president calls on army to defend against globalization

Addressing the Czech military’s top brass, President Klaus said the army must defend against globalism and European unification

Armáda má dle poselství prezidenta Václava Klause pomoci chránit náš stát před globalizací. foto: © ČESKÁ POZICE, Jiří Bušek, ČTKČeská pozice

Armáda má dle poselství prezidenta Václava Klause pomoci chránit náš stát před globalizací.

Speaking at the annual gathering of the Czech military’s generals on Wednesday, President Václav Klaus said the military has a greater role than just conducting foreign missions. Noting it is the military’s constitutional duty is to defend the borders and unity of the Czech state, the vociferous euroskeptic called upon the army to defend the Czech Republic against globalization and unification in Europe.

“It appears to me to be insufficient to attempt to base the defense of the need for our army on its involvement in foreign missions. Given the volatility of politics and the international situation, they [foreign missions] are not a sufficient argument and cannot become the sole source of legitimacy of the army in the public’s eyes,” Klaus said. “These things are also part of the military’s tasks, but only also.” 

“I don’t think we can be an army of chemical defense and field hospitals,” Klaus, who as head of state is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, told the generals, referring to the sound reputation Czech military field hospitals, and anti-chemical units have earned on NATO-led international missions. ‘Generals and officers, you can help defend the need for the army only if together with some of us you help defend the existence of our state against globalism. ... and against unification tendencies in Europe.’

United we fall...

“Generals and officers, you can help defend the need for the army only if together with some of us [politicians] you help defend the existence of our state against globalism in the world, and against unification tendencies in Europe,” Klaus proposed.

“Only as a result of serious political debate on this theme across the whole political spectrum is it possible to explain why we need the army. And given the huge pressures on the state budget as a result of the further weakening of the economy, it’s only upon this assumption that it’s possible to conduct a serious debate to ensure the military is allocated the required amount of financial resources,” he told his military audience.  

The website of the journal Literární noviny commented that in this “significant” speech Klaus essentially revived the old debate about the raison d’etre of the Czech army, but “dressed it in the new attire of his habitual rebukes against the EU.”

Top-end cuts

At the annual gathering of the military’s top ranks the army’s priorities are discussed and set. Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra (Civic Democrats, ODS), in his address to the assembly spoke of plans to accommodate cuts in military spending, which as he has said before, will first and foremost result in streamlining of the military command structure and a reduction in the number of civil employees in the armed forces and defense ministry.     

“We won’t say the numbers involved today because it would not be serious. Now we are working on the macrostructure of both the Ministry of Defense, and in the military command, but as soon as this work is completed, of course we will announce it,” Vondra said.

CASA under fire 

Vondra also used the occasion to vent his discontent over the controversial purchase of Spanish CASA military transport planes that have been plagued with technical problems.

“Our patience is almost at an end. There are many problems, and we will soon announce our further course of action,” adding that the faults with the planes are a top priority and ordered top defense ministry officials to establish direct contact with the manufacturer of the CASA planes, the EAD consortium. Vonda also gave the order not to sell the military’s soviet designed AN-26 transport planes, which the CASA are supposed to replace and which were withdrawn from service in April this year.

The latest technical failure occurred last Sunday (Oct. 30) when the display of the navigation system and several other cockpit indicators failed on one of the CASA planes as it was preparing to land. A defect in one of the engines occurred shortly afterwards. Chief of Staff, General Vlastimil Picek, ordered the grounding of all the CASA planes until the causes of the failures are ascertained and put right.

The purchase of the four CASA C-295Ms remains shrouded in controversy, partly due to no tender being held which contravened EU regulations. The Czech Republic paid €132 million (around Kč 3.5 billion) for the aircraft. Other militaries have paid considerably less for the craft, raising suspicions that corruption may have been involved.