The Army should definitely not fall victim to this crisis – Jana Černochová, Chairwoman of the Defence Committee, says

The Army should definitely not fall victim to this crisis – Jana Černochová, Chairwoman of the Defence Committee, says
Caption: Jana Černochová
02 / 04 / 2020, 10:00

In her position as Chairwoman of the Defence Committee, Jana Černochová is the most distinctive opposition authority for this area. „In today's globalized world, we cannot rely solely on our own resources and ourselves in all areas... the cooperation of private enterprises with the state in the defence industry is absolutely crucial for the state's preparation for the crisis... The Army should definitely not fall victim to this crisis, because perhaps in the next crisis we will need it primarily,“ she said in the interview.

  • The current coronavirus pandemic thoroughly tests how we are able to prepare for crises. Is the Czech Republic ready to deal with these tense situations, whatever kind?

The Czech Republic has proved several times that it has the ability to cope with tense situations and crises. I would like to emphasize that we have a number of high-quality, determined, trained people, companies and professionals who have tremendous potential to support the whole nation in the hardest times. Which is not automatic. Regarding the so-called crisis legislation, even though it is always possible to find some improvements, it has been tested in practice repeatedly and has proved its worth in the past. Unfortunately, in the current situation, the Government has repeatedly zigzagged and disregarded proven practices and rules, which is the way to hell. Perhaps I do not need to remind you that the Central Crisis Staff has not been initiated by the Prime Minister for a long time, which is an essential prerequisite for the coordination of state components and effective resolution of any crisis.

The ongoing pandemic is completely new to us, not only in terms of the threat and danger, but also the behavior of our country's leaders in finding ways to deal with it. I am not the one who, in times of crisis, was going hysterically to the political opponents and was not constructive, especially in the field of defence and security, but it is incomprehensible to me when the President calls on the opposition to remain silent and more constructive. At the same time, it was the ODS (Jana Černochová’s political party) that in January wanted to start delivering medical supplies for our medical staff and armed forces. At the same time, the Minister of Health said that nothing was happening, and when it started to happen, he shifted responsibility to the management of hospitals… It is a sad picture that cannot be passed by silence.

See also: Budget measures of the Ministry of Defence to counter the pandemic – Venoms and Vipers as unnecessary luxury

  • And as a society, are we set up to think of times when we are going to solve a real problem?

Until recently, some have lived in the belief that no major crisis can affect us, perhaps just the cooling of the economy, when the first signs were already manifested in January, with the worst state budget deficit since 2003! But this is forgotten today. I am not surprised by the degradation of the state's preparedness, but also by many citizens, for crises, as it could be obvious since many years. Mentally and in fact, we are not adequately prepared for many threats. That is a fact. Nevertheless, I am not losing the hope that it is still time to change this and prepare for other crisis situations that will surely await us in the future. This will need to change thinking first and accept that material and capacity preparation for crises, such as developping the Army, are not financially profitable and profitable activities, but they are necessary. Ensuring defence and security is a fundamental function of the state! And whether we realize it or not, it was the reason why states were formed.

  • There is an ongoing debate about the lack of masks and respirators and our dependence on its imports from China, which is not able to handle extreme demand. What is the lesson for us? Are we supposed to rely on ourselves, especially in times of crisis?

A citizen rightly relies on the state to help him when he is the worst, that is the principle of social contract. But the state cannot handle all preparations for crises alone, it cannot have everything in its warehouses. Simply, of course, the state will never be ready for everything, but it can have strategic friendships and agreements with allies. We bought much needed medical supplies from China, but thanks to NATO we had the opportunity to use strategic air transport in the SALIS program and transport it to the Czech Republic. In today's globalized world, we cannot rely solely on our own resources and ourselves in all areas, that is utopia. This is not to say that we do not have the ability to produce or store a number of products, semi-finished products and raw materials for crisis situations. On the contrary! But we have to think carefully about what it will be, what areas we are able to secure, maintain and possibly develop. The point is not that we should start inventing the wheel, we need to assess the situation and add what we have learned during this crisis. For example, it is a great boost to me in difficult times when I see the explosion of invention of people, universities, entrepreneurs and companies helping in a crisis. It is fascinating and at the same time instructive for the state how to use the capabilities of people in times of crisis. “We are together” is not an empty phrase.

  • When we transfer the need to prepare for crises into the military environment. At the ideological conference last year, you strongly urged the ODS to work closely with private companies in the domestic defence industry. You said that they should be given a strategic label and, for example, the obligation to maintain know-how should be transferred to them. Do you now confirm that there is no other solution for the crisis?

Yes, the cooperation of private enterprises with the state in the defence industry is absolutely crucial for the state's preparation for the crisis and we should work hard on it. The current defence deficit is enormous and will continue to deepen, of course, thanks to this crisis and possible reckless cuts in the budget of the Ministry of Defence, and without cooperation with industry it will not be eliminated. In the future, we will not be able to do without measures to delegate private undertakings. And for the damage that the obligation to maintain lines and supplies to businesses will incur, it will be necessary to pay. As I mentioned, being prepared for the worst and protecting your citizens costs something, but it pays off. Investing in defence, of course, also helps the Czech economy. It is definitely worth investing in prevention, because the money spent on remediation of the consequences of the crisis could eventually be many times higher.

See also: Modernization of Land Forces after coronavirus: Reduction of the IFV project, wheeled vehicles and new tanks. How to deal with budget cuts?

  • As the first possibility of savings in the state budget Prime Minister Babiš pulled out military purchases. In your opinion, is such reasoning correct?

The army should definitely not fall victim to this crisis, because perhaps in the next crisis we will need it primarily! Not only the Prime Minister, but also Minister of Finance A. Schillerová said a few days ago that the army will contribute CZK 2.9 billion, and then cut off the discount on public transport of CZK 1.5 billion, because nobody runs buses and trains anyway. No one else apparently contributes from their departmental budget yet. That's a strange procedure at least, isn't it?

I understand that the economic impact of anti-coronavirus measures on the state will be enormous, but the military has been underfunded in the long term and we cannot increase its already enormous internal debt. I am convinced that we must continue to move towards two percent, it is our commitment to the Allies but also to the citizens that their defence will be ensured in the future. Next week on Wednesday at the Defence Committee meeting, we want to hear with colleagues from the Minister of Defence where, in what and why will the Army have to reduce it expenses. Let us first solve the immediate impacts of this crisis for this year and, without hysteria and speculation, address more systemically. The Ministry of Defence, after consulting the military, should first look at its concepts, strategies and plans, and then let's talk about what is necessary and what can wait for some time.

  • In the future, it will probably be more difficult to explain to the public that defence spending should take precedence over, for example, the social area, where spending is likely to increase significantly. Do you think it would be helpful if the Army orders were conditional on maximum involvement of Czech industry, which would also support the economy?

I believe that efforts to maximize the involvement of the domestic defensce industry in military procurement should be a matter of course, regardless of the current situation. But even, undoubtedly, emphasizing these efforts can contribute to the public's understanding of the importance and importance of military spending, even if the money spent is an investment in supporting the domestic economy. At the same time, however, we must realize that there are products and technologies that our industry simply cannot produce, but which our Army needs. At the moment, there is a real danger that the Government will hardly defend the purchases of what the Army has been missing for years. But if it is responsible and wants to live up to what we are committed to, that we will be responsible in defending our country, it must find the courage. As I said, the development and modernization of the Army can be strategically re-evaluated and some savings can be sought, but by no means can we go to the marrow and let our armed forces fall.

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