The Army of the Czech Republic proves itself, but it is still not in good condition
After its exemplary and well-presented deployment during the pandemic and the liquidation of the immediate consequences of the tornado in South Moravia, the Army of the Czech Republic has now demonstrated a well-executed evacuation of people from Kabul in difficult conditions. According to the assignment and with the possibilities it has. Only three examples from a long list which places the Army of the Czech Republic in front of other public institutions in terms of trust and popularity among citizens (last spring, together with the police, the approval reached almost 80%). The Army can be seen, heard, and naturally boasts of its actions, abilities and achievements in a good way. That is right. But with the current state in which military equipment and armaments are still in use, or infrastructure, real estate and other property, it is ambiguous.
Picture: The Army can be seen, heard, and naturally boasts of its actions, abilities and achievements in a good way. That is right. But with the current state in which military equipment and armaments are still in use, or infrastructure, real estate and other property, it is ambiguous. (illustration photo) | Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic
Double-edged because the public can easily get the impression that everything is in perfect order thanks to the currently set PR of the Czech Armed Forces and the massive presentation of successes, and that the current Army technology, armament, equipment, etc. is good enough for us. And if everything is not right, the current situation is at least acceptable. However, the reality is often different and the professional public and the soldiers themselves know this very well. It is appropriate to admit to the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces that the situation has indeed succeeded in improving in a number of areas. However, the Army is still dragging several hundred billion in internal debt (estimated at 300-400 billion crowns), and it can be seen on its armament. The most visible in this regard are the battalions of the 7th Mechanized Brigade and the 13th Artillery and 25th Anti-Aircraft Regiment. That is units whose armaments were to be upgraded as a matter of priority, and still are not. Tanks, tracked IFVs, self-propelled guns and anti-aircraft systems are just the most visible and most expensive acquisitions that need to be completed.
Increasing the defense budget is not and will never be perceived positively by certain segments of the public. Whether it is idealists who live in the idea that we will live world peace forever and ever without weapons, or citizens who, for example, are bothered by the republic's membership in NATO for various reasons. In this respect, those who see the possibility of savings in that the Czech Republic would stop participating in international operations, withdraw from NATO and defend its territory on its own, are amusing. However, in order for our Army to have such a capability at all, it would have to return with its volume of people and technology to the pre-November times, including spending 5% of GDP and the introduction of compulsory military service.
But the increase in the defense budget is to be explained even to somewhat less extremely thoughtful citizens, because these are expenditures that are to be reflected in the lower possibilities of the state in other areas. The Army itself will survive anyway. It is not here for itself, and it can work with what is available and cope. After all, it has no choice. In a future conflict, and the question is not whether it will be, but when, the state, ie all of us, will pay for the underestimation of the build-up of the armed forces in quiet times. And our allies with us.
It is before the election and politicians need to show success. And so the media space was flooded with, for example, photographs from various corps taking over the new Toyota Hilux pickups, with which the Army replaces the UAZ-469 „museum“ vehicles, with the addition that the Army „is entering the 21st century“. In 2021? In any case, it is progress that will bring savings, but repaying this age-old debt is not a topic to celebrate or a project that will send the Army to a bright tomorrow. It is simply a necessary, unchecked item, for which, in addition, practical experience will show if it was a really good choice. A citizen who does not follow the issues related to defense and the Army intensively, these cheers around the photos with dozens of new glowing cars read: "Another order was successful, the Army got something new again, everything works."
Or if we look at the evacuation of Czech Army personnel and Afghan co-workers from Kabul. Let us omit the complex question of whether and why late, whether all those who were to be evacuated were evacuated, etc. The argument by security clearance is valid. But let's look at resources. Three flights of a single aircraft. At a time when our allies were carrying out their evacuation and shared resources were not available. Everyone was surprised by the rapid collapse of the regime, which, with enormous resources and commitment, the Alliance helped to build for twenty years. It collapsed like a mud pie of dry sand. Despite the great performance of our pilots and other soldiers, who, as has been said, work with what they have, it turned out that the Army simply lacked the capacity for such an operation, which was reflected in time losses and a higher degree of risk.
And there are many more examples. There is no need for the Army to stop communicating its successes to the public and to start lamenting what it lacks. However, it must be seen that it is achieving these successes despite many long-standing unresolved issues. The Army is not in good condition, and the more admirable its results are. When viewed from the outside, it is not so visible - that is why it is easier for politicians to reach the future defense budgets for money. Let us recall that, according to the Chief of the General Staff of General Opata, the proposed restriction of the growth of the defense budget (not the reduction of the defense budget, it is not on the table) in the period 2025-2028 threatens to stop the development of the Czech Army. The sum of the internal debt and the newly missing funds will suffocate the Army too much, to put it simply. The current Army of the Czech Republic is not in good condition, it needs modernization and the public should perceive it.