Czech army to train foreign units for money

Czech anti-chemical units, photo CTK

The Czech Armed Forces face some formidable financial challenges, in everything from upgrading their fighter jets to turning professional. To confront the problem they have hit upon a new strategy, which could help to bring in some-needed cash. The Czech military has begun offering professional courses taught by its elite anti-chemical units, to its allies around the world. Listeners may remember that Czech Special Forces gained renown in the Gulf War, which means the offer should be an attractive one. Jan Velinger reports.

Czech anti-chemical units, photo CTK
What, in a way, could be more timely? In the period following September 11th, professional techniques in the fight against chemical and biological terrorism couldn't be in higher demand. And while the Czech military's training courses come at a price tag of millions of dollars, Jiri Kominek of Jane's Defence Weekly, says they are well worth it. Mr Kominek says that Czech Special Forces have a great deal to offer in the prevention of terrorist attacks that could come at any time.

"In the Gulf they proved to be invaluable to Operation Desert Storm. The skills that they have are very unique within the structure of NATO especially, and they are certainly skills that even non-NATo members, such as Lithunia, or militaries from the Gulf states, such as Kuwait or the Emirates would like to seek, because they could potentially face such threats, because they are much closer to the "party"."

And what about the benefits for the Czech Republic?

"Oh, it boosts their prestige, it boosts the prestige of the country itself, it's all positive, and it should be win-win for the Czechs."

Meanwhile, the daily PRAVO notes that Czech specialists are already on site in Kuwait as part of U.S.-led operations against terrorism, and once of the officers stationed there has been equipped with a presentation CD-ROM on Czech army and Czech military services, so he'll be looking for customers. The paper writes that interested parties are said to include Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and two Baltic states that are candidates for NATO: Lithuania and Latvia. But PRAVO's article also has a hint of irony, embodied in the words "Want your own private army? All you need is a few hundred million". Jiri Kominek from Jane's Defence Weekly thinks that such a tone is unjustified. Special Forces training course on a commercial basis are common internationally and the involvement of Czech Special Forces can only be viewed as a plus.

"I don't think it's humorous at all, I think it's absolutely normal, I mean the NATO fight training centre in Canada charges money of NATO members, to train their pilots. In Canada, wherever training occurs, it costs money. It's all something for something, quid pro quo. It's an opportunity for the Czechs to pass on their expertise to military unit from other countries that desperately need such know-how in today's scenario. It goes on all the time: the United States trains U.S. Special Forces, and British Special Forces, and the French train militaries all over the world. That's their job, that's one of the roles of Special Forces, to train the militaries of other countries to help cope with insurgencies, and counter-terrorism, and things like that."