The fall of the Iron Curtain is often described as a sudden, unexpected event. The following years during the 1990s saw both a major expansion of NATO eastwards and the geographical retreat of Russia from areas previously seen as within its sphere of influence. This included Czechoslovakia, which switched from being a member of the Eastern Bloc’s Warsaw Pact to full NATO member in a space of ten years. To find out more about how this exactly came about and what could have been, I spoke to Cold War historian Sergei Radchenko, professor of International
Former Czech Defence Minister Jiří Šedivý was appointed new Chief
Executive of the European Defence Agency. He will assume office next month.
Mr Šedivý, who is 56, served in the past as deputy minister for European Affairs of the Czech Republic and permanent representative of the Czech Republic to NATO. He currently works at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs as special representative for for combating disinformation and hostile foreign influences.
As an expert, he also played an important role in the Czech Republic’s accession to NATO. It was during this period that he served as external adviser to President Václav Havel.
The Czech diplomat Jiří Šedivý has made the shortlist for the post of
chief executive of the European Defence Agency (EDA), the newspaper Lidové
noviny reported on Monday, citing Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. Mr.
Šedivý was the Czech Republic’s ambassador at NATO and is also a former
minister of defence. At present he is government commissioner for combating
disinformation and hostile foreign influences.
If Mr. Šedivý gets the EDA post it would be one of the highest posts in an international organisation ever held by a Czech, the Office of the President’s foreign affairs specialist, Rudolf Jindrák, told Lidové noviny.
The EDA promotes and facilitates integration between European Union members within the bloc’s Common Security and Defence Policy.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Defence Ministry officials have moved to quell concerns over the security of Czech soldiers and police officers serving in Iraq. The general chief of staff said precautions had been taken to ensure the safety of the 40-member-strong Czech team and an emergency evacuation plan was in place should the need arise.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš says the Czech Republic is not at present
considering withdrawing its troops from Iraq. Speaking on a visit to
Olomouc, Mr. Babiš confirmed an earlier statement from the General Staff
of the Czech Army that none of the country’s soldiers had been harmed
during overnight rocket attacks on two US bases in Iraq.
A Czech Ministry of Defence spokesman said no Czech soldiers had been stationed at the bases.
Iran said the strikes had been in retaliation for the killing last week of its military commander Qassem Suleimani.
A spokesperson for the Czech Army said its troops had halted exercises and were remaining at their bases, adding that it would await a decision on how to proceed from NATO command.
Almost 40 Czech soldiers are taking part in a NATO mission in Iraq and five Czech police officers are serving as instructors in Bagdad.
Amidst growing tension over the latest developments in the Middle East, following the killing of Iran’s military leader Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, the Czech foreign minister has joined calls for a level-headed approach to the crisis, warning that a further escalation of tension will not only destabilize the region, but put at risk the progress made in the war on terror.
With the arrival of the New Year, the Czech Army has deployed 1,000
soldiers to NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, the army said in
a statement on Thursday. The Czech soldiers will be on alert for the
entirety of 2020 and must be able to take action in a crisis situation
within five days.
Commander Petr Blecha said the Czechs had been preparing intensively to play a role in the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force since 2018. The task force was created following the Russian annexation of Crimea.
The Czech Republic will increase its contribution to the NATO budget by
about ten percent as of next year, the CTK news agency reported, citing
defence ministry sources.
The country is currently contributing 580 million crowns and should pay around 620 million as of 2020.
NATO member states agreed to increase their individual contributions after the US, which had been contributing the lion’s share for years, announced it would be lowering its input.
The funding of the alliance and defence spending will be the main focus of an upcoming NATO summit in London next week.
The Czech Republic will be represented by President Miloš Zeman, Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar and Czech Ambassador to NATO Jakub Landovský.
The spreading of disinformation by pro-Russian activists was the most
serious threat to the constitutionality of the Czech Republic last year,
the country’s BIS counterintelligence service says in an annual report
issued on Tuesday.
In recent years such players have been agitating in an increasingly intensive and systematic way against the political structure in the Czech Republic and the country’s membership of the EU and NATO, the report states.
The report says those circulating pro-Moscow disinformation tend to be from various nationalist and populist movements and include parties and individuals. Some of them were previously active in the domestic anti-immigrant movement.
BIS also said that China was intensifying its espionage activities in the Czech Republic, with all of it main intelligence services in operation here in 2018.
China has targeted its activities at the academic community, the security forces and the state administration and has sought to recruit Czechs as agents, the report says.