Czech leaders highlight range of threats on anniversary of NATO accession
At Prague Castle on Tuesday senior Czech politicians addressed a ceremony marking exactly 20 years of the country’s membership in NATO. The country’s prime minister said the alliance needed to be more active in some regards but described membership as crucial, while the foreign minister highlighted the threat posed by Russia.
Among the speakers were the presidents of Poland and Hungary, which joined NATO on the same day as the Czech Republic, and of Slovakia, which entered the alliance five years later.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš told the visiting dignitaries, local politicians and diplomats that membership was crucial to his country.
“Twenty years ago we joined NATO. Membership gave our security a new perspective. We ceased being alone and can rely on the help of our allies. The history of the 20th century has shown that a country of our size cannot defend itself. Therefore it is our existential interest to be a member of this defence alliance.”
However, Mr. Babiš also called for on the organisation to do more in some areas.
Czech President Miloš Zeman highlighted a different terror group, cautioning against negotiating with such people.
“Somewhere in Qatar talks are being held with the Taliban in the hope that a tiger will become vegetarian, that it will no longer murder. In reality, the tiger will remain a tiger. If we again allow the Taliban to control Afghan territory, it will again turn it into a terrorist base used in attacks on the territory of Euro-American civilisation”.
Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček highlighted yet another threat in Russia, which he said was aggressive toward both its neighbours and NATO itself.
Another speaker at Prague Castle on Tuesday was the Czech-born former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright.
Her message was that NATO was not just a military alliance but a political alliance based on democratic values. She said members needed to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defence but also needed to be “100 percent for democracy”.