Continued aid to Ukraine remains important for security, says Czech chief of staff

Chief of Staff Major General Karel Řehka outlined the importance of continued support to Ukraine in its war against Russia.

ČTK

Written by ČTK Published on 25.01.2023 09:48:00 (updated on 25.01.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

Major General Karel Řehka, who is Chief of General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, told ČTK that it is extremely important for the Czech Republic to help Ukraine not only for moral reasons but also in order to protect its own security.

Řehka stressed that if Russia were to take Ukraine under its control, the Czech Republic would have to considerably bolster its defense spending.

"It is extremely important to help the Ukrainians. Since they are pushing back this threat, weakening it, and keeping it away from us. This (aid to them) is not only morally right, but we also need it in view of our own defense,“ Řehka said.

The chief-of-staff said that if Western countries weren't sending aid to Ukraine, Russia would "steamroll" it. For Czechia, that would mean having Russia at the NATO border in a position to be even more aggressive.

If a war between NATO and Russia broke out in the Alliance's Eastern flank, for instance, outside the Czech territory, it would immediately affect the Czech Republic and the professional military alone would not suffice.

-Czech chief-of-Staff Karel Řehka

"We would then have to invest much more in defense and this will be a far more dangerous situation for us," he stressed, calling Russia an aggressor and a potential opponent.

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"If there is anyone we could be potentially fighting a major war against in the near future, with the exception of terrorist groups, then it is Russia," he emphasized.

Řehka referenced in the interview Russia's hostile conduct amid the Vrbětice affair, in which Russian intelligence agents were suspected of having been involved in two ammunition-depot blasts in the South Moravian town in 2014 which killed two Czechs.

-Czechia needs 30,000 soldiers in the next seven years
-Czechia had 27,197 troops at the beginning of 2022, 22,866 of which served directly in the military
-Czech defense spending amounts to 2 percent of the GDP
-2-percent defense expenditures are considered the absolute minimum in NATO
Source: General Staff press department

Řehka also called the current tendency to underestimate Russia dangerous. "Russia is far from being defeated, this is pure imagination," he said, though added that it was difficult to predict how long Russia would need to recover from the conflict, estimating no longer than ten years.

"They are doing their utmost for it, it is a big country, and they have a different relation to human life," he said.

The chief-of-staff said ten years is quite a short time for building a defense and that it is urgent to prepare for the threat.

Lessons from Ukraine

He said the best way to prevent a war is to intimidate, which means to show the allied preparedness and strength to Russia.

"A significant lesson learned from Ukraine is: Let us not rely on someone else to do something instead of us. We must be resolute and prepared in the first place," he noted, adding that "society will have to get involved, we will have to mobilize at least selectively, either people or material resources."

The Czech Republic has provided Ukraine with assistance valued at about CZK 4.5 billion. The export of military material from the Czech Republic to Ukraine has reached several tens of billion crowns.

Earlier this week defense minister Jana Černochová said the Czech Republic is still ready to support Ukraine with arms deliveries, highlighting the country's coordinating role in an international project to upgrade 90 T-72 tanks for Ukraine, co-financed by the U.S. and the Netherlands.

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