Prague - “Russian President Vladimir Putin and his annexation of Crimea have helped me in my efforts to stop further cuts in the Czech Republic's defense budget,” said Czech Chief of General Staff Petr Pavel.
“The occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula will hopefully serve as a wake-up call or warning that it is no longer possible to use the military budget to fix the state budget,” Pavel told Aktualne.cz, adding that the military needs 190 new personnel carriers to carry out its duties related to NATO's collective defense. He also said that his “thank you” to the Russian president was, of course, a tongue-in-cheek statement.
Pavel spoke to Aktualne.cz during Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky's inspection at a special forces base. “Soldiers must buy equipment from their own funds. The equipment issued by the military is worn-out, almost worthless, and there is no money to buy a new one,” the minister was told by a battalion commander standing in front of a Pandur carrier. Pandur carriers are the Czech military's most advanced piece of equipment, but the military lacks funds to buy ammunition for their cannons.
“They have bought us great and expensive toys, but we have nothing to wear,” said Warrant Officer Milos Prasil.
Minister Stropnicky acknowledged these complaints and even apologized to the soldiers for the conditions they must live in. “The fact that they must buy equipment in army surplus stores is almost unspeakable. Their comments are important, though quite harsh, impulses for my work,” the minister told Aktualne.cz.
Stropnicky agrees that it was the Ukraine crisis that has prompted the Czech premier to promise to increase the defense budget. “Only the threat of a war is, unfortunately, forcing us to focus on our own military,” admitted the minister. “The cut of an entire quarter of the military budget cannot be justified, not even by an economic crisis.”
Follow us on Twitter!