General Karel Řehka: Every soldier is also a recruiter

 21. 02. 2024      category: Events
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At yesterday's Command Assembly of the Chief of the General Staff of the Army of the Czech Republic, the main tasks of the Army of the Czech Republic in the last year were evaluated. The framework of the assembly was defined not only by the review of the fulfilment of the Army's tasks for the year 2023, but especially by the issue of the war conflict in Ukraine as a real threat to the Czech Republic. This was confirmed by the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Karel Řehka, and by the Minister of Defence, Jana Černochová, in his opening speech.

General Řehka reminded not only of Russia's incursion into Ukraine, but also that Russia has fallen far short of its strategic goals and its gains so far are negligible despite sending additional material and human resources to the fighting. "Where would Ukrainian and Russian forces be today if it were not for the determination of Ukrainian society, the courage of Ukrainian soldiers and Western support. The war in Ukraine affects the situation in Europe, and of course our military. What happens in Ukraine and how the war turns out means what kind of world we will live in," General Řehka said in his speech.

Foto: Generálporučík Karel Řehka hovoří na Velitelském shromáždění | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE
Picture: Lieutenant General Karel Řehka speaks at the Command Assembly of the Chief of the General Staff of the Army of the Czech Republic | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE

According to him, it is important to monitor not only the course of the fighting itself, but also Russia's rhetoric, the transition to war production, Russia's violation of international agreements, Russia's increasing military cooperation with autocratic regimes, its activities elsewhere in the world, the use of new weapons systems, changes in strategy, and its ability to adapt at the operational and tactical levels. "We carefully evaluate the lessons learned, often in cooperation with Ukrainian partners and colleagues. None of us is comfortable going around the world and saying that war is imminent. It is natural that people do not want to hear it. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news and to deliberately stir up negative feelings. But we have to talk openly about threats and patiently explain what risks they bring, because problems are meant to be named and solved, not to be silenced," said the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces.

General Řehka also reminded that we need to keep supporting Ukraine because it is in our own interest. Last year, the army trained 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers in the Libava military area and in Poland. Material assistance from army supplies is also ongoing. General Řehka also reported that Vladimir Putin a week ago, in an interview apparently intended for an outside audience, presented silly narratives about the Russian world and his standard distortion of history. "The goal of this propaganda was clear. He wants the West to continue to live in the pacifist illusion of eternal peace. To give the impression that the war in Ukraine does not concern it. That it is just some kind of internal Russian affair. Most importantly, he wants the West to stop helping, and therefore us too. We will, of course, do the opposite with all our strength. Can we rule out that Russia will not attack us or our allies? For us soldiers, the answer is clear. And until we have absolute certainty that such a situation will not arise, and we will not have that any time soon, we must continue to work hard to strengthen our capabilities, our defences and, above all, our deterrence. We must continue collectively, within the Alliance, but also individually," the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces summarised.  

In his speech, Řehka also mentioned the results of the army's work over the past year. "First of all, we have made significant progress with the military defence review. We are in the final stages of updating our defence plans and those of the alliance. We have started the preparation of the National Host Nation Support Plan. We are addressing the structure of the army, the command and control system and assessing all aspects related to the mobilisation system," the general said, adding that this also applies to the Concept for the Construction of the Czech Army 2035. According to him, the basic tasks of our army within the Alliance include actively contributing to the new force model and fulfilling tasks related to the role of a host country to secure our territory for the reception and transit of allied forces. "This concept determines how we want to build our army further. We describe how it will be used. We take into account the lessons learned from the war in Ukraine and set out the key directions for the development of the army," General Řehka said, adding that the emphasis is mainly on building, rearming, preparing and training units to achieve the required combat capability and readiness. Emphasis is also placed on the renewal of weapon systems and a complete transition to modern Western technology. According to the Chief of the General Staff, the next ten-year period will represent the basic technological transformation of the Czech Army, including the acquisition of supplies, material and ammunition and the provision of a functional replenishment system. General Řehka also recalled all the modernisation acquisitions that are currently underway. 

The recently signed Vision for Future Warfare 2040 is also an important conceptual document. It outlines the challenges we will face in the long term, the anticipated course of military operations, and the likely requirements for our military's capabilities.

As part of his remarks, the Chief of Staff also mentioned the challenges of recruiting new soldiers into the Army and maintaining and growing the military to the required levels. This is not being done according to stated needs, primarily due to lower recruiting and active reserve departures. Řehka also reiterated the fact, mentioned several times, that we can have the best equipment, material and processes, but if we do not have enough qualified soldiers, our intentions will be just a piece of paper. According to the general, it is obvious that the current staffing model is unsustainable - the army is undermanned and aging. According to the Chief of the General Staff, the army is aware of this situation and is addressing it. If the ACR is to reach its stated goal of 30,000 conscripted soldiers and 10,000 active reserves, we must add more because the labour market will not wait. "And let's not forget that every soldier and every one of us who are here is also a recruiter. How we act, how we speak and how we behave - all of these things create the image of the military in the eyes of the public. Please think about this every day," the Chief of the General Staff appealed to the commanders.

Foto: Náčelník generálního štábu v rámci své řeči zmínil také problémy s rekrutací nových vojáků do armády a udržení a růst vojenského stavu na požadovanou úroveň | Ministerstvo obrany ČR
Picture: During his speech, the Chief of General Staff also mentioned the problems of recruiting new soldiers into the army and maintaining and growing the military strength to the required level.| MoD of the Czech Republic

General Řehka also recalled the alliance commitment to build a heavy brigade, which unfortunately the army is not fulfilling due to delayed deliveries of combat vehicles and other equipment. "However, the new alliance operational plans and the new force model require a much greater involvement of the forces and resources of the member states, including the Czech Republic. The collective defence now includes not only partial elements of the army, as we were used to in the past, but practically the entire structure of the Czech Army. And as we complete it, other elements will also be included. In addition to the heavy brigade, we have to complete the medium brigade, the light manoeuvre element in the form of an airborne regiment, as well as elements of combat support, combat security, units of territorial forces, air defence and other elements," stressed the Chief of the General Staff, according to whom it cannot be ruled out that we will find ourselves in a conflict in the future. "I am not saying that it will happen, but it cannot be ruled out and we must do everything we can to avoid it and, in the event that we cannot avoid it, to make it the least possible tragedy for us. Conflict can be avoided. But it can only be avoided by having a strong defence. We must have real capabilities and capacities for deterrence. We must have the will to use them, and the potential adversary must understand that. It is a matter of the whole society, because if you want to solve a problem, you have to admit that it exists and you have to talk about it," Lieutenant General Karel Řehka said at the end of his speech.

Defence Minister Jana Černochová then thanked the army for the work it has done. She also confirmed the need to continue supporting Ukraine. According to the Minister, this country, which has been resisting Russian aggression for two years, is in the first line of defence. Although Černochová said that the Czech Republic has exhausted the stocks of material it could donate to Ukraine, this does not mean that the Czech Republic has resigned itself to seeking other forms of support. According to the minister, in addition to training Ukrainian soldiers on our territory and in Poland, it is also about joining the demining coalition or supporting industrial production.

Foto: Jana Černochová hovoří na Velitelském shromáždění | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE
Picture: Jana Černochová speaks at the Command Assembly of the Chief of General Staff of the Army of the Czech Republic | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE

According to the Defence Minister, the Czech Republic has provided Ukraine with over CZK 6 billion worth of military material since the beginning of the conflict and has delivered more significant material in the past week. The ministry said earlier that the Czech Republic had donated to Ukraine unused military material from the Czech army's stocks at a purchase price of CZK 6.2 billion, with a residual value of CZK 1.2 billion. According to Černochová, last year the main items were attack helicopters, tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, self-propelled howitzers and rocket launchers, including ammunition. According to the defence minister, the leftovers from the warehouses are already awaiting transport, but Czech assistance will be focused in a different direction. "Our assistance is not stopping, it is just taking a new form," said Jana Černochová. In her speech, she also praised the enactment of a 2% of GDP funding for defence spending, which after a decade of uncertainty will bring stability to the modernisation processes of the army. At the same time, however, the minister drew attention to the fact that the years-long internal debt in the army financing amounts to several hundred billion crowns. 

In the context of what was said at the commanders' meeting, we put the following question to the press department of the Ministry of Defence: Does the Ministry of Defence envisage more significant support for the defence industry aimed at increasing the production of medium and large calibre ammunition? Is it not planning to support, for example, a joint venture with Ukraine that would be able to replenish supplies of missing ammunition on Ukrainian territory?

The Ministry of Defence is working on projects that involve supporting the defence industry to increase the production of large-calibre ammunition. As part of these activities, the Ministry of Defence, specifically AMOS, is working on various cooperation opportunities, including the potential creation of joint ventures with Ukraine. However, due to the sensitivity of these matters, we cannot provide specific details.

 Author: Jan Zilvar

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