General Milan Píka, whose father also held that rank and was executed following a Communist Party-orchestrated show trial, has died at the age of 96. Himself punished on false charges, the World War II veteran nonetheless managed to rise to the top of the Czechoslovak military – and eventually clear his father’s good name.
Czechs are looking back at 20 years in NATO. Their country joined the Alliance together with Hungary and Poland on March 12, 1999. Since then NATO has grown significantly and undertaken several major international military operations. Vít Pohanka highlights the most important developments in the Alliance over that time and how the Czech Republic participated in them.
At a ceremony marking the Czech Republic’s entry to NATO twenty years ago, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček handed out medals of merit to 14 people who assisted the country in preparing for membership and meeting its new obligations. The laureates included key players on the international scene at the time as well as Czech diplomats and military officials who worked hard to make it happen.
The Czech Republic is looking back at twenty years of NATO membership, the security guarantees it provides and the challenges it presents for the Czech Armed Forces. Vít Pohanka spoke to General Petr Pavel, former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, about the importance of membership, present-day threats to the Alliance and its uneasy relationship with 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.
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.
The Supreme Audit Office has criticised the Czech military forest and
estate management company (VLS), which is owned by the Ministry of Defence,
for paying too much to build a house for a division director. Auditors said
the CZK 7.3 million construction cost was disproportionately high and
exceeded normal employee benefits.
For its part, the Ministry of Defence said that the decision to build the house was made in September 2012 and, after being finished in 2015, the building was offered for lease to the Karlovy Vary division director, who offered the highest price.
The Czech Defence Ministry says it needs to gain more information on
Germany’s plans to recruit nationals from other European countries as
part of a drive to beef up the country’s armed forces.
It has not rejected the idea outright, although Czech politicians have reacted negatively to the suggestion saying that army service should be tied to nationality.
According to former army chief of staff General Petr Pavel such a plan could damage the Czech Army by reducing the number of its own recruits.
According to the German daily Hamburger Abendblatt Germany has sounded out its European partners regarding the plan with different results; only four countries, including the Czech Republic, were prepared to discuss the issue.
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