We don’t have to go far to get an idea of how differently individual NATO countries perceive security risks — we can just stay home. The administration prides itself on raising defense expenditures from the current one percent of the GDP to 1.4 percent by 2020. But it considers that the final target. It maintains a chaste silence on the commitment of NATO countries to spend at least 2 percent, and here and there points out that the aforementioned ceiling is the maximum for the Czech economy, if not a luxury. It’s the same with money as with free time. If there’s something you really want to set aside finances or time for, you can always find both. It’s a matter of priorities and it’s evident that a large portion of Czech ruling coalition politicians don’t want to, or cannot, acknowledge the current hazards.
This became apparent last week when information that the U.S. is considering the establishment of military bases in the Czech Republic evoked panic on the Czech scene. Top members of the ruling Czech Social Democratic Party, such as Rep. Foldyna and Governor Hašek, objected that it would happen only over their dead bodies. And even Prime Minister Sobotka had to reassure his electoral base that the talk isn’t about military installations, only exercises in which American soldiers would participate on Czech territory within the framework of NATO.
Phew, that takes a load off Rep. Foldyna’s mind, too. He remembers how, when he was eight, Soviet tanks rattled through the streets. And he would never want to experience anything like that again.
But it’s precisely an American base, of which the representative is afraid, that could be an insurance policy that tanks from the East really never again reach Czech land. Until politicians understand that, they will have the feeling that they are spending too much on defense. But that feeling is erroneous and dangerous.