Single Czech stand at Warsaw NATO summit?

Partner: Institute of International Relations
Keywords: Russia, NATO, Global Security, Europe, EU, Energy Security, Economic Security, Czech Republic

The Czech head of state, foreign, and defense ministersflew out to Warsaw Friday for the start of the two-day NATO summit in Warsaw. Were they able to speak with one voice despite their diverging opinions on best course of actions towards Russia? Michal Kořan gave his prediction on this issue to Radio Prague on 8 July.


Further Reading

The Czech head of state, foreign, and defense ministers fly out to Warsaw Friday for the start of the two-day NATO summit in Warsaw. The military alliance looks set to occupy an even bigger stage in the future following Brexit and is getting back to basics with European security now in the forefront of concerns.

It’s an irony of sort that has not escaped many that the NATO summit is being hosted in the Polish capital that once gave its name to the pact that was for almost 40 years its main rival and disappeared almost 25 years ago to the day.

But it’s also appropriate now that Warsaw is hosting a summit to be attended by 18 presidents, 21 prime ministers, and around 41 ministers of foreign affairs and defense. The Czech delegation is headed by President Miloš Zeman, Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek and Minister of Defense Martin Stropnický.

The biggest presence at the summit though will be the elephant in the corner of the room – Russia – which single handedly has caused NATO to get back to the basics of collective security on its European borders, particularly given the perceived vulnerability of the Baltic States to what might more likely be a hybrid attack or destabilization.

One general theme to follow is how much the various leaders will stress the need to keep lines open to Moscow while at the same time preparing for continued strained relations following the annexation of the Crimea and conflict in eastern Ukraine.

And the Czech threesome might have problems keeping to an agreed line given the president’s penchant for pushing his own version of, often more cosy, relations with Russia. Michal Kořan is a researcher at the Prague-based Institute of International Relations. He says the Czech delegation might have problems speaking with the same voice:

“I think that serious attempts were made to make the delegation speak with one voice but there will certainly there will be issues where President Zeman will have a maverick position on, for example, the NATO responsibilities or actions vis a vis Syria. I am sure he will be advocating a very assertive approach which might not be entirely in line with the rest of the delegation. Also we know that President Zeman has a very special relationship, or view, of Russia. So he might not be on the same page with the rest of the delegation on issues such as Georgia or the move of the defence interest structure towards the East, which will be a very important decision at the Warsaw Summit.”

More generally, the Czechs have moved to remedy the impression that they have not been fully pulling their weight since joining along with Poland in 1999. The Czech Republic is moving to boost its defense spending, with the government pledge to earmark 1.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product, on defense by 2020, up from around 1.0 percent now. That, though, still trails the NATO target of members spending at least 2.0 percent of GDP on fulfilling their shared security commitments.

You can listen to the interview published on 8. 7. 2016 here.

PhDr. Michal Kořan, Ph.D. is Research Fellow at the Institute of International Relations and among his areas of interest are for example Central Europe in transatlantic relations, the Visegrad group cooperation or the Central European states in the context of European and global politics.


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