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MfD: Former chief of staff warning of poor army budget

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Prague, Jan 18 (CTK) – Czech politicians must add money to the military and insist on its clear concept if the military is to defend the national border, former chief of staff Jiri Sedivy writes in Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) yesterday.
The Czech military is not in its best condition. After more than ten years, it still has not finished modernisation of its basic forces and units and has not started any change in its arms and logistics, Sedivy writes.
All the previous concepts ended briefly after their approval because the financial framework of the planned development of the military changed, he adds.
The military personnel was most affected. Its professionalisation was halted, the total number of soldiers fell deep below the planned numbers and the concept of active reserves was all but stalled, Sedivy writes.
After years of efforts, the basic legislation is only changing now and the main modernisation programmes have been set in motion, he adds.
The Czech military has undergone a period that was more influenced by political desires than reality, Sedivy writes.
While Czechs naively believed that Vladimir Putin’s Russia sincerely wants to settle neighbourly relationships with the Czechs’ allies on the eastern border of NATO, Putin deliberately prepared the renewal of influence in the countries that were in the Soviet zone in recent past, he adds.
While most NATO members were curbing their defence budgets, Putin was modernising his military step by step, Sedivy writes.
Czechs must defend their national interests and along with their allies they must send a strong and clear signal to Russia that the time of yielding to the pressure is over, he adds.
This may be exemplified by Polish representatives’ insisting on the permanent presence of NATO troops on the Polish soil, Sedivy writes.
Czechs must be also ready to shoulder more responsibility for European security, not only in a declaratory fashion. They should really spend the recommended 2 percent of GDP on their defence, he adds.
Though the Czech Republic has been nominally increasing its defence budget, its proportion of GDP has been falling, Sedivy writes, citing the figures of 1.06 percent in 2003, down to 1.03 percent this year.
Political decisions made at the time of the recent recession lowered the defence spending. It has turned out that this is unbearable, Sedivy writes.
Putin is not likely to proceed to a direct military confrontation, but the current conflict between Russia and Turkey must be taken into account, he adds.
Russia keeps escalating the situation, although it must be objectively admitted that Turkey, a NATO member, is partly to blame for the incident in which Turkey shot down a Russian fighter, too, Sedivy writes.
As a result, it may happen that the clash with Russia will not occur on the eastern border, but in the south, he adds.
At present, Europe is facing a migrant wave that has no parallel in modern history. In itself, it may not be a disaster, but it may still be a security threat. Both European and non-European jihadists are getting back to Europe, Sedivy writes.
Last but not least, the military and its reserves must be ready to reinforce the police in the protection of the population or the Czech Republic were directly threatened by a terrorist attack, he adds.
The military must be prepared to act not only abroad, but also inside the country. This demands a full political attention and planning continuity, especially in the sphere of budget, and a definition of Czech interests and strategy, Sedivy writes.
It is impossible to change the tasks every year, cutting the budget here, inflating it there, he adds.
As building national defence is a long-standing affair, any oscillations weaken, not strengthen it, Sedivy writes.
If politicians are serious and if all Czechs feel similar acute threats, perhaps the Czech Republic will eventually have 2 percent of GDP being spent on defence, he adds.

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