Minister eyes change allowing Czechs to join NATO Rapid Response Force

The Czech Republic could in future play a role in NATO’s Rapid Response Force. That is if the country’s new defence minister has her way. Speaking at Czech Army HQ, Jana Černochová also called for increased military spending.

Jana Černochová of the Civic Democrats, who was appointed at the end of last week, visited the Chief of Staff of the Czech Army for the first time in her new role on Tuesday.

Among the minister of defence’s messages to top brass was that she would strive to enable Czech troops to take part in NATO’s Rapid Response Force.

It is a technologically advanced multinational force that – as the name suggests – is on constant standby and can be deployed at a moment’s notice.

MPs have previously sought to introduce constitutional amendments allowing for this, but without success.

Flanked by Czech Army chief Aleš Opata, Jana Černochová made the following comment.

“A constitutional amendment that would simplify the sending of our soldiers into international operations, for example operations aimed at rescuing hostages, has proven a stumbling block. The Chamber of Deputies did not complete a debate on this, unfortunately, so that’s one thing I would like to propose again.”

Aleš Opata,  Jana Černochová | Photo: Michal Krumphanzl,  ČTK

The government has limited powers when it comes to international deployments as the Czech Constitution now stands.

It may only send soldiers abroad, for a maximum of 60 days, within international treaties on common defence, to participate in peacekeeping missions or to undertake disaster relief.

MPs have repeatedly – but in vain – proposed constitutional amendments repealing these three conditions, which preclude involvement in the NATO Rapid Response Force.

If the changes were to come in, the government would decide on the deployment of troops abroad and retrospectively inform Parliament. It could then overturn the cabinet’s decision.

Minister Černochová also referred to the Czech Army’s budget, which she hopes will rise, despite the fact the new government has pledged to cut spending.

“The army deserves a budget that will genuinely see us – in 2025 in an ideal scenario – approaching 2 percent of gross domestic product. This would not only allow us fulfill our commitments; it would also allow us to make up for the shortcomings we have in modernisation.”

NATO requires that its members spend 2 percent of GDP on defence. The Czech Republic has never reached this figure, despite pledges from various leaders.

On the domestic front, the Czech Republic’s new defence chief also highlighted the service the army has been providing during the Covid emergency.

“Over 20,000 soldiers have this year helped us deal with the pandemic. They have been deployed at health facilities, social services and vaccination centres and call centres. I’d like to really thank them for that, because they have been doing all of these things alongside their other duties and work.”