Czech President Miloš Zeman continues to stir controversy in the international arena. After criticising the EU’s sanctions against Moscow and questioning Russia’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, Mr Zeman has now suggested that Ukraine should drop its NATO aspirations. Instead, he argues, Ukraine should emulate Finland’s neutrality of the Cold War era.
The Czech Republic is an active and stable member of NATO, the recently appointed secretary general of the alliance Jens Stoltenberg told Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnický. The officials met in Brussels on Friday. Mr Stropnický said his country’s positive image within NATO was the result of Czech soldiers’ participation in foreign missions. The Czech Republic has been criticized for failing to meet its commitment to spend two percent of its GDP on defence. But Mr Stropnický said the Czech government’s plans to gradually increase defence spending to 1.4 percent of GDP by the year 2020 have been well received.
Five Czech Gripen fighter jets are flying to Iceland on Friday as the Czech Army prepares to take over surveillance of Icelandic airspace. Over the next nine weeks Czech aircraft and a contingent of 75 soldiers will be primarily responsible for Iceland’s air defence, the only NATO member state with no air force of its own.
Five Czech Gripen fighter jets are to fly to Iceland on Friday for an air patrol mission over Icelandic territory. Thursday’s flight was cancelled due to bad weather over the Atlantic. Over the next nine weeks the Czech air force will take its turn protecting Iceland's airspace, the only NATO member state without an air force of its own. The main part of the 75 member Czech contingent is already there. The cost of the operation, estimated at 33 million crowns, is being covered by Iceland.
Adverse weather conditions delayed the planned flight of five of Gripen fighter jets to Iceland scheduled for Thursday morning, according to Czech military sources. The jets and a number of soldiers were scheduled to fly to Iceland within a joint military operation to protect Iceland's airspace. The main part of the 75 member Czech contingent is already there. The Czech army was originally to protect Iceland’s airspace for five weeks but agreed to extend it to seven at NATO’s request.
The Czech Republic supports Macedonia’s bid to join the EU and NATO, Prime Minister Boshulav Sobotka said after a meeting with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Gruevski in Prague on Thursday. The country’s accession to the EU and NATO has been opposed by Greece over disputes concerning the name of the country; Mr Sobotka expressed regret that Greece’s attitude has so far prevented Macedonia from joining the European Union. For his part, the Macedonian prime minister appreciated Czech support for his country’s bid and said Macedonia was ready to become an EU member state.
The new US ambassador to Prague, Andrew Schapiro, says the Czech Republic should continue to increase its defence spending. After presenting his credentials to Czech President Miloš Zeman at Prague Castle, Mr. Schapiro said the Czechs were increasing their military spending to 1.4 percent of GDP; however, the NATO target is 2 percent and the US would like to see more progress in this direction. The American envoy said he and Mr. Zeman had also discusses the economy and energy, adding that he regarded the latter area as one in which the US could provide help to the Czech Republic.
Soldiers from the Czech Republic are taking part in an international military exercise, Anaconda, at the training grounds in northern Poland, which was launched on Wednesday. The ten-day exercise involves 12,500 soldiers from Poland and eight other NATO allies, including the US and the Baltic states. The operations should examine the readiness of allied forces to react to security threats in light of the military conflict in Ukraine.
The chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces Petr Pavel is to be the new head of NATO’s Military Committee. His election to the post at a committee meeting in Vilnius over the weekend has been hailed as a "major diplomatic success" for the Czech Republic and an expression of trust by fellow NATO members.
Czech President Miloš Zeman, speaking at Mošnov in Ostrava on Sunday, the second day of NATO Days and Czech Air Force Days attended by thousands of visitors, reiterated that fewer tanks and more unmanned drones were needed in the fight against terrorism, specifically Islamic State. The president has made the case before, namely at the recent summit in Wales. On Sunday, Mr Zeman also congratulated the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Army, General Petr Pavel, on his election to be the next chairman of NATO's Military Committee. In his speech, he also touched upon the usefulness of the country's supersonic Gripen fighter jets, which are to begin a mission in helping to protect Iceland's air space.
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