Fri. Jul 12th, 2024
Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova At the 24th Air Transportation Base at Prague-Kbely Airport

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good morning, everyone.  It’s a great pleasure to be here with Minister Cernochova, and I just want to say first of all thank you – thank you to the minister for her extraordinary leadership and partnership with us and with so many NATO Allies.  Twenty-five years ago, the Czech Republic joined NATO, and I think we see today the full realization of what that Alliance means both for Czechia and for the United States and for all our Allies.

Czechia has been leading in so many different ways, including with its defense budget, soon to be 2.1 percent of GDP, meeting and exceeding the Wales Pledge.  We see it in the extraordinary work that Czechia is doing in support of Ukraine in a moment of great need, by the end of the year training up to about 9,000 Ukrainian forces; providing more than $600 million in equipment, authorizing another $6 billion in equipment flowing to Ukraine which it so desperately needs in defense of the aggression committed by Russia on an ongoing basis; and, of course, here, among other things, the refurbishment of Soviet legacy equipment, including tanks, including Howitzers, which Ukraine is using to help repel the Russian aggression.  This is truly extraordinary work.

I also have to especially applaud what Czechia has done in going around the world and finding the necessary munitions that Ukraine needs on the battlefield, including 155 and 152-millimeter munitions.  This is critical.  By the end of the year, we anticipate that that effort, led by Czechia, will produce nearly a million shells for Ukraine.

We’re also gratified by the relationship between the United States and Czechia when it comes to defense, including the acquisition of 24 F-35 planes, and, of course, the Defense Cooperation Agreement that we signed just a few months ago.  All of that is a powerful demonstration of our partnership and our alliance in action.

And the final thing I’d say is this:  The great strength of NATO, the entire reason for NATO, is collective self-defense.  Collective self-defense means that we’re all in this together.  An attack on one is an attack on all.  And it’s precisely that which makes conflict less likely.  It strengthens deterrence.  It says to any would-be aggressor or adversary that if you take on one member of NATO, you’re going to have to take them all on, and we’ve found that that’s most powerful way to actually prevent war from happening in the first place.  The Alliance – the NATO Alliance – will be celebrating its landmark anniversary in a short while in Washington.  It’s stronger than it’s ever been.  It’s larger than it’s ever been.  I believe it’s more effective than it’s ever been, particularly when it comes to collective self-defense and deterring aggression.

With that, Madam Minister.

DEFENSE MINISTER CERNOCHOVA:  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Now for the remarks from Minister Cernochova.  Madam, you have the floor.

DEFENSE MINISTER CERNOCHOVA:  Yeah.  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  Welcome to the Kbely Air Base.  Sorry it’s military weather.  (Laughter.)  Never mind.  We must be strong.

For more than two years, Russia has been fighting a brutal war against Ukraine’s freedom and independence.  Ukraine fights bravely to defeat the aggressor.  Ukraine must win this war.  Our own security is at stake as well.  That is why we support Ukraine as much as we can.

It’s the responsibility of the democratic world to give the Ukrainian armed forces everything they need to defend their country.  The Czech Republic has provided Ukraine with tanks, combat vehicles, and attack helicopters.  We now work to deliver hundreds of thousands of critically needed artillery shells. 

With – support provided by the United States as well as the close Czech-American cooperation have been essential in our help to Ukraine.  Last year, we signed – your colleague – the Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States, and my government approved the acquisition of F-35 aircraft.  The United States has also kindly provided us with compensation for our military supplies to Ukraine.  Here I mean the eight pieces of H-1 helicopters and the financial support of more than $300 million.  Thank you.  This means that, thanks to the U.S. support, we can not only help Ukraine but also implement largest modernization of our armed forces in our modern history.

Secretary Blinken, let me once again thank the United States for its support, and please say hello my counterpart, Minister Austin.  Lloyd is my friend and I remember his visit in Prague last – year ago.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Thank you (inaudible).

DEFENSE MINISTER CERNOCHOVA:  Thank you for your support.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you so much.

DEFENSE MINISTER CERNOCHOVA:  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  This concludes the remarks.  Minister Cernochova and Secretary Blinken will now be present examples of military equipment which the Czech Republic delivers to Ukraine as aid.  Thank you for your participation and have a nice day.

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-and-czech-defense-minister-jana-cernochova-at-the-24th-air-transportation-base-at-prague-kbely-airport/

originally published at Politics - JISIP NEWS