Czech response mixed to Trump call for accelerated defence spending

Donald Trump, photo: ČTK / Markus Schreiber

Donald Trump has made headlines this week by calling on America’s NATO allies to increase their defence spending. His words have met with a mixed response here in the Czech Republic, with some acceptance that armaments purchases must be stepped up – but questions surrounding the speed and focus of such spending.

Donald Trump,  photo: ČTK / Markus Schreiber
The Czech Republic, just like most of its NATO allies, has pledged to spend two percent of its gross domestic product on defence by the year 2024. In an interview for Czech Television, the country’s ambassador to NATO, Jiří Šedivý, said the alliance regarded Prague’s commitment as credible, adding that there was no way the Czech Republic would reach the goal of two percent earlier than in 2024.

According to analyst Lukáš Dyčka from Brno’s Centre for Security and Military Strategic Studies University of Defence, everyone, including Donald Trump, knows that reaching the target of two percent earlier than 2024 is impossible:

“In case of the Czech Republic, increasing military spending to two percent by January 2019 would mean nearly doubling the target. It would be impossible to spend the money in a meaningful way. So I don’t expect it to happen earlier than in five or six years.”

“But I think it is actually a stand-in problem. Mr Trump has had a long-term problem with Europe concerning certain economic questions and trade exchange. He wants to press Europe to give in on these issues, and defence spending is an area where he can easily apply his pressure.”

Czech ambassador to NATO, Jiří Šedivý, says that the Czech Republic is neither among the best or the worst as regards weapons purchases, which is why it wasn’t among the nine countries to receive a letter from Mr. Trump calling on them to contribute more to collective defence.

At the same time, the official says that the Czech Republic really does need to considerably increase its defence spending.

Photo: Pixabay,  CC0 Public Domain
“It is important to make up for the deep deficit on military spending from the past and take advantage of the current economic growth. The Czech economy has been growing for at least four years, yet we still haven’t made any substantial acquisitions in military equipment. The Czech economy won’t grow forever. This is the golden era and we really have the means now to mordernize the country’s defence system.”

According to analyst Lukáš Dyčka, the Czech Army is mostly in need of combat vehicles, as well as new helicopters and radars:

“But technical equipment is just one of many things. We also need people to operate the equipment and we need money to train them. So it would definitely be very short-sighted to focus only on equipment.”

In 2013, the Czech Republic spent 24 billion crowns on defence, which represented 1.03 percent of gross domestic product. In 2019, military spending should reach 65.6 billion crowns, that is 1.17 percent of GDP.