Despite the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Czech government will not cut defense spending, said Prime Minister Andrej Babiš at a security conference at Prague Castle yesterday.
He said he appreciated that Minister of Defense Lubomír Metnar is not afraid to decide on military purchases. According to the prime minister, the Czech Republic is aiming to keep its promise made to NATO to commit two percent of GDP to defense spending in 2024.
Babiš stated that the Czech government plans to invest heavily and will in no way scrimp on defense and security.
“In this election period, our defense spending will certainly reach 1.4 percent of GDP,” he said. Based on purchases of American helicopters, French artillery, and Israeli radars, Babiš says the Czech Republic is on its way to fulfilling its financial commitment to NATO.
Babiš also appreciated that Defense Minister Metnar is not afraid to sign acquisitions.
The Czech prime minister also commented on Former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton’s proclamation from his book that Babiš was the author of “the most inept comment” at the NATO summit in July 2018. Bolton said Babiš told President Donald Trump that it was difficult for the Czech Republic to come close to meeting its defense spending goal because the country’s GDP is quickly growing. Babiš reiterated that Bolton does not appear to understand basic math.
According to Babiš, US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with the statement.
“This year it looks like there will be a big drop in GDP, which will mean that the percentage will be higher. I think you understand that and that Mr. Trump understood it too,” he added.
Metnar said that the coronavirus crisis had shown the importance of the military. According to him, the state relies on the ability to lean on the army in times like these.
“For this to continue, we need to build and maintain the army, the same can be said for NATO as a whole,” Metnar said. According to him, the growth of the army budget must not stop.
“I will continue to strive to increase the defense budget and modernize military equipment,” he stressed.
Babiš let the NATO allies know that they could rely on Czechia.
“I consider our membership in NATO to be absolutely essential to our security, but I would like to emphasize here that we do not maintain and arm our military just for NATO and our promise to someone and somewhere. The resilience is primarily our responsibility,” he pointed out.
The prime minister also described the fight against misinformation as important one.
“Part of resilience and security is also preventing the leakage of information into the media. In the future, I do not want to experience the secret and strategically important information leaking into the media,” he said.
He stated that such leaks should be severely punished in the future.
Title image: In this Wednesday, June 26, 2019, file photo, Czech Republic’s Prime Minister Andrej Babis looks up during a parliament session in Prague, Czech Republic. On Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, the Czech Republic’s prosecutor general has overturned a previous decision by the prosecution to drop charges against Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis over alleged fraud involving European Union subsidies. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)