Army chief: Czechs must prepare for NATO-Russia conflict

Karel Řehka

In a forthright speech on Tuesday, the head of the Czech Army said that if there were a war between NATO and Russia, the Czechs would immediately become active participants. Karel Řehka told the country’s top brass that preparations must be made now for such a possibility.

The chief of the general staff of the Czech Army, Major General Karel Řehka, delivered an annual assessment of the previous year to the military’s top leaders in Prague on Tuesday morning.

The army chief said the only place he could begin was Russia’s war on Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, what happened was exactly what many military and security analysts had warned of for many years – and few believed them. We convinced ourselves that there was no threat of a major war in our civilised Europe. It was comfortable, as we didn’t have to sacrifice for our defence a lot of effort, money or human lives… The last year presented, and continues to present, our army with challenges that we have never faced.”

Karel Řehka said Czechia had to prepare now for a possible military clash between Russia and NATO, which the country joined in 1999.

NATO flag | Photo: GPA Photo Archive,  Flickr,  CC BY-NC 2.0

“If – and I say if – a war breaks out between the alliance and Russia, we will be an active participant from the first minute. A large part of our army will go to fight according to the alliance’s military plans. Our territory will become a significant transit and support zone. It would be up to us soldiers to ensure that zone was secure and could function.”

If this were to happen, there would be many legitimate and easily reachable targets in Czechia from Russia’s perspective, said the army chief.

“Russia won’t wait for us to get organised and to travel somewhere to a battlefield. It will respond immediately. The lives of every soldier, and citizen of the Czech Republic, would be turned on their heads. Everything would be different.”

Velitelské shromáždění | By Ministerstvo obrany České republiky | Facebook

What’s more, Moscow could get even worse in future, Major General Řehka warned.

“Russia, which today is terrorizing a sovereign European country, isn’t going to disappear. It will remain a danger to us: less predictable, more hostile and aggressive, and perhaps frustrated, full of hatred and out for revenge.”

Jana Černochová | Photo: Office of Czech Government

Also addressing the Czech Army’s commanders on Tuesday was the minister of defence, Jana Černochová, who highlighted the country’s commitment to helping Ukraine.

“The supply of military and humanitarian aid was, and remains, very important to the Ukrainians; especially so at the start of the war, when in practical terms our country and Poland were the main countries offering such support. The total sum of our support – some CZK 500 million – proves that we are not indifferent toward Ukraine.”

The Czech defence chief also said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine represented the biggest change to the security situation in Europe since WWII.

Many, including all previous Czech governments, had succumbed to the illusion of eternal peace on the continent, Ms. Černochová said.