What will deeper military ties with the U.S. mean for Czechia?

The Czech Republic wants to end its reliance on Soviet-era military hardware but will not allow the U.S. to establish a permanent base.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 22.04.2022 12:03:00 (updated on 22.04.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová met with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and confirmed the Czech Republic’s interest in concluding the bilateral Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA). The agreement, though, would only allow a temporary presence of U.S. troops on Czech soil under extraordinary circumstances.

The two sides also discussed replacing obsolete Soviet-era military hardware including helicopters and tanks and signed a separate agreement making it easier for Czech firms to participate in U.S. defense contracts.

The DCA agreement, which should be negotiated in the coming months, will primarily regulate the legal status of members of the U.S. Armed Forces in the event that they need to stay in the Czech Republic during the performance of their tasks.

However, it will not entitle U.S. military units to stay in the Czech Republic for a longer period of time. Such a stay must be approved by the Czech Parliament in accordance with the Czech Constitution for a precisely determined period agreed in advance, the Czech Defense Ministry stated. In short, the DCA will not allow the U.S. to create a permanent or long-term military base in the Czech Republic.

The DCA, though, should contribute to smoother cooperation in the modernization of the Czech Army. “The United States currently has a similar agreement with 24 of NATO's 30 allies. It was time for us to join them as well,” Černochová said. The modernization of the Czech armed forces is now a priority.

“We want to replace the outdated Soviet technology with new equipment and get rid of our dependence on Russia,” Černochová said.

She added that adding that the two sides had discussed the possibility of Czechs purchasing more Venom and Viper helicopters in addition to 12 units already in production. The Czech Republic is going to add tanks and aircraft to its arsenal in the near future, and will be looking for a supplier.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová in Washington. Photo: Department of Defense.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová in Washington. Photo: Department of Defense.

The Czech Republic has been sharing its Soviet-era military equipment with Ukraine, which is familiar with its use, but it will now need to replace some of that stock. “The Czech Republic is ready to send more military equipment to Ukraine,” Černochová added.

The Czech Republic cooperates with the U.S. in foreign operations and joint military exercises. Currently, it is participating in the emerging multinational NATO battle group in Slovakia. The Czech Republic will take a leadership role and an American contingent will be involved, a press release from the Czech Defense Ministry states.

U.S. Defense Secretary Austin said the U.S. was very grateful that the Czech Republic has offered itself as a framework partner and a major force in the emerging battle group in Slovakia.

“I applaud the Czech Republic’s leadership [for] standing up against Russian aggression and standing strong with our fellow NATO allies to defend peace and security in Europe,” Austin said.  

“I know that the Czech people hear history’s echoes today. And we remember the bravery and the determination that the Czech people showed in 1968, when, as a part of Czechoslovakia, you faced down invading tanks from Moscow. So, it’s no surprise that you stood up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and self-defense," he said.

Austin also said that this is a solemn visit by Černochová to the U.S., as she was also in Washington to repatriate the ashes of Czechoslovak General František Moravec, who fought the Germans during World War II.

“I know that your nation remembers him for fighting the Nazis as a brave son of Czechoslovakia. Yet we also remember him here as a proud American citizen, who in his later years actually became a valued advisor for the Pentagon,” Austin said.

Moravec died in Washington in 1966 at the age of 71. During World War II, he served as the chief of the intelligence service of the Czechoslovak Government in Exile and was based in London. 

While negotiations on the DCA are at their start, another Czech-American agreement on mutual procurement of materials and services for defense (RDPA) was formally concluded on the sidelines of the talks. This is an agreement approved by the previous government in 2019.

Its purpose is to make it easier for companies in the Czech defense industry to apply for American partner contracts. It will ensure that Czech suppliers are not discriminated against in these situations, because US legislation favors domestic suppliers.

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