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.
Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček handed out Medal of Merit awards
to 14 people who assisted the Czech Republic’s entry to NATO 20 years
Among the laureates was the former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who was a leading voice in advocating for expansion of the military alliance to central Europe, former NATO secretary general Javier Solana and his successor in the post George Robertson, officials who headed NATO at the time of the country’s admission and during its first years in the alliance.
On the home scene, the awards went to the former foreign ministers Jaroslav Šedivý, Jan Kavan and Karel Schwarzenberg, former defence ministers Vladimír Vetchý, Alexandr Vondra and Luboš Dobrovský as well as former army chiefs of staff Jiří Nekvasil and Jiří Šedivý.
Russia is striving to undermine the unity of NATO member states, Slovak
President Andrej Kiska said at a security conference in Prague marking
twenty years since the alliance’s first expansion eastwards.
President Kiska said Moscow was using all the instruments at its disposal to achieve this goal – economic interests, diplomacy and propaganda.
Polish President Andrzej Duda echoed these sentiments saying that Moscow was trying to drive a wedge between NATO member states and was using provocations to see how far it could go and how NATO would react.
He likewise stressed the danger of cyber warfare and propaganda, which he said was another potent instrument in Russia’s arsenal.
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.
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