Gen. Karel Řehka: For a long time we did not pay enough attention, effort and resources to defence
Yesterday was the 10th edition of the prestigious Czech national conference "Our Security is not a given", which since 2014 has regularly brought together top political representatives and leading security experts. The main theme of this year's conference was the current and future impact of the ongoing war in Ukraine as a result of Russian aggression, both on the Czech Army and on the defence and security of the Czech Republic as a whole.
Zbyněk Pavlačík, Chairman of the Jagello 2000 Association, which co-organises the conference "Our Security is not a given", said in his opening remarks that this year's event is significant not only because it is being held for the tenth time, but also because it is taking place in the year of the 30th anniversary of the Czech Republic, when our homeland commemorates three decades of sovereignty, freedom and democracy for the first time in modern history. The opening part of the conference was addressed by the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Petr Fiala, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic Jan Lipavský, the Minister of Defence of the Czech Republic Jana Černochová and the Chief of the General Staff of the Army of the Czech Republic Gen. Karel Řehka.
In his speech, Prime Minister Petr Fiala recalled how fragile our security is and how it depends on responsible decision-making, our international relations and our reputation. According to the Prime Minister, this fact was often met with misunderstanding, indifference or rejection, but this has changed in many ways with the return of war to Europe. In assessing the situation in Ukraine to date, Prime Minister Fiala said that the situation on the front remains serious and is changing slowly, which presents us with new risks. According to Fiala, the last year has also shown that Russia is willing to cross virtually all boundaries in its incomprehensible aggression, including the boundaries of humanity, as evidenced by the ever-increasing atrocities in the form of attacks on civilians, civilian infrastructure, the bombing of hospitals, the destruction of the Kakhovka dam, etc. According to Fialy, it does not seem that the war in Ukraine will end any time soon; on the contrary, we are facing a scenario of a frozen conflict, which would mean the creation of a centre of permanent security instability in Eastern Europe. However, this situation would be very exhausting in the long run (in terms of capacity, but also in terms of support and attention) for all parties involved, including the Czech Republic, which we should prevent together with the international community. In his speech, Prime Minister Fiala also confirmed that the Czech Republic has started to correct its greatest security weaknesses and reaffirmed its role as a valid member of the Alliance.
Picture: In his speech, Prime Minister Petr Fiala reminded how fragile our security is and how it depends on responsible decision-making, our international relations and our reputation. | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
Another speaker, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský, said in his speech that today no one doubts that our security is not a given and few doubt that our security is not free and that we must invest in it. The current situation is also reflected in the update of the Security Strategy of the Czech Republic under the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is currently undergoing the approval process and which responds to the deteriorated security situation in Europe. It is the Security Strategy of the Czech Republic that seeks to draw attention to the fact that the deteriorating international security environment has made the Czech Republic unsafe, especially thanks to the activities of China and Russia, which are seeking to weaken the EU and NATO.
Picture: Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský said in his speech that today no one doubts that our security is not a given and few doubt that our security is not free and that we must invest in it. | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
In her speech, Defence Minister Jana Černochová reminded us that we must not forget that Ukraine is also fighting for our security. "I am proud that it is the Czech Republic, together with its allies and partners, that has stood up to Russian aggression. We were the first to supply Ukraine with ammunition, tanks, BMP, helicopters, howitzers or rocket launchers - and our decisiveness and speed was a model for others. We continue to be one of the largest providers of military, humanitarian, financial and other assistance to Ukraine. I would like to thank the members of the Army of the Czech Republic, General Rehko for reviewing from the first moment he took office what else can be sent to Ukraine so that in no way our own defence and security is compromised. We have now agreed with the Chief of General Staff that we will revise the list according to which we are proceeding and actually send what we can send," said Minister Černochová, who said that we should continue to do what we have already started: strengthen our defence, wish for peace and support Ukraine. In her speech, Minister Černochová also recalled that Putin, thanks to his aggression against Ukraine, has actually become the best recruiter of other countries to NATO and also the "accelerator" of the modernisation of our armies.
The Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Lt. Gen. "For a long time we have not paid enough attention, effort and resources to defence, and I mean as a society, as a whole. We succumbed to the fallacy of deferred need, we did not respond to the wake-up call from Crimea, we thought we were not in danger in Europe, it was convenient not to talk about it, and to this day it is not very popular." According to the Chief of the General Staff, we must prepare for the risk of a major conflict in order to prevent its outbreak. The only way to achieve this, according to General Řehka, is effective deterrence in the form of building up a strong national defence so that a potential aggressor understands that it has no chance of success and the cost to it would be too high. Gen. Řehka stressed that we must all be consistent in this thinking. According to Gen. Řehka, the era of limited national defense capability, when we downplayed threats and considered defense spending a waste, is over. After all, defense spending is a society's investment in its own security and prosperity.
Picture: According to the Chief of General Staff, we must prepare for the risk of a major conflict in order to prevent its outbreak. The only way to achieve this, according to General Řehka, is effective deterrence in the form of building a strong national defence. | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
The Chief of Army Staff also reminded the audience that we are still catching up with the army's past debts and praised the present government for encouraging investment in defence, something the army was not used to in the past. At the end of his speech Gen. Řehka stressed that if, in the context of building resilience, the word mobilisation or stating the obvious fact that war cannot be completely ruled out in the future causes panic in society, we are asking for such a society to really collapse in a serious crisis, saying that there is really no room for compromise now and that defence should be taken seriously.