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Minister: Czechs must meet defence spending limit for 2020

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Prague, May 28 (CTK) – Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) cannot imagine that the country would not meet its pledge to spend 1.4 percent of GDP on defence in 2020, he told the public Czech Television (CT) on Sunday in relation to the state budget draft released earlier this week.

According to the draft budget issued by former finance minister Andrej Babis (ANO) shortly before his dismissal, only 1.16 percent of GDP should go to defence in 2020. This means that the military would lack 20 billion crowns, compared to the original plan.

Stropnicky said he would talk about the budget with new Finance Minister Ivan Pilny (ANO) and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) next week.

He said he considers the released budget merely the first draft. “Now we have to have serious talk about how to reach the quota of 1.4 percent,” he said.

If this level is not reached, it will not be possible to increase the defence budget to the required 2 percent of GDP by 2025, Stropnicky said.

The Czech Republic confirmed its pledge to give 2 percent of GDP to defence at a NATO summit on Thursday.

Stropnicky also talked about the military mission in Afghanistan. He told CT that leaving Afghanistan is no option because a huge migration wave would come due to it.

NATO Military Committee Chairman Petr Pavel, who is former Czech chief-of-staff, said Afghanistan is a long-term commitment. Fight against terrorism and radicalism is a task for several generations, he told CT.

For the anti-terrorism struggle to be successful, all must cooperate in it, Pavel said, mentioning NATO, the EU and the United Nations.

He said the task of NATO is to develop combat capabilities of countries like Iraq rather than extend its own capabilities.

Pavel said NATO is not considering its permanent presence in the Baltic states. NATO has taken measures to assure the allies on its eastern wing and it sent battalion-sized battlegroups to the region to show its readiness to defend its territory, Pavel indicated.

Stropnicky said nobody wanted an armed conflict with Russia. He said President Vladimir Putin may seek an external enemy before the Russian presidential election due in March 2018.

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