Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic

   česky      english     

Advanced search

Skip to menu

Speech by the Minister Jan Lipavský on the Sasakawa Peace Foundation Symposium
Photo: © MZV ČR / MFA CZ
Article notification Print Decrease font size Increase font size

Speech by the Minister Jan Lipavský on the Sasakawa Peace Foundation Symposium


Tokyo, March 1, 2024

Speech by the Minister Jan Lipavský on the Sasakawa Peace Foundation Symposium

Speech by the Minister Jan Lipavský on the Sasakawa Peace Foundation Symposium


Dear President Sunami, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for your kind words and for the opportunity to meet and discuss topical security issues with you all. I highly value your work at this foundation. Striving for peace has never been more urgent than today.


My presence at your institution is quite symbolic. Back in 1991, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation established the Sasakawa Central Europe Fund. Its aim was to assist and help Central European countries with their transition to democracy and to a market economy. The mission of the Fund was accomplished when Czechia joined the EU in 2004.

Today, I am standing here before you as a representative of a democratic, prosperous country enjoying the full benefits of a market economy.

We do not forget the contribution of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. Let me use this opportunity to thank you again for your help and advice that was so instrumental during all those formative years.

However, today, we are meeting here to discuss the security challenges of the 21st century and look for the best answers.

The overall picture is indeed grim. We are living in dangerous times. Global tensions are increasing. Russia and China are at the lead of the anti-systemic drive. They shrewdly use global problems, dormant crises and national grievances.

Drawn by transactional policies, too many countries become trapped, underestimating the complexity of consequences. In the process, the UN Chapter is being violated and rules-based international order challenged.

Over the last 15 years, we have encountered a number of crises – financial meltdown, irregular migration, Brexit, pandemics, return of the Taliban to power, Russia's aggression against Ukraine, current unease in the Middle East and its worldwide repercussions.

They were so many so that we can talk about a multi-crisis. We have hardly had time to solve one before the next one stroke. This situation is making our societies fragile, distrustful to the system and prone to manipulations by our enemies.

A hasten development of technologies, the vast potential of artificial intelligence and the cyber and information space, along with our economic dependencies, are catalysts, accelerators and amplifiers of the security threats.

Anyone who ventures to analyse the current state of the world is easily led to describe a number of events or developments as “historical”. What is cyclical in nature might be mistakenly taken for fundamental and structural.

Less common is a kind of false wisdom saying that “there is nothing new under the sun”. We have already seen it all, so to speak. To me, both of those approaches are a bit simplistic.


So, what is “new” about the current geopolitical state?

First novelty: We have another war on the European continent. We experienced wars in the Western Balkans in the nineties, but this is different. This time, a former superpower is involved. New is also the rhetoric coming from Moscow that it can use nuclear weapons in this conflict.

Speaking in Japan, I do not need to underline how alarming this is. The trust consistently build up over the years is gone. Even China has had to draw a “red line”, a nuclear one, that Russia should not cross. The Cold war was never hot. Today’s war is.

How did we get to this point? There is an ancient Latin saying “Quis vult pacem, parat bellum“, that is usually translated as “If you want peace, prepare for war”. It seems that in the Post-Cold war era we, collectively, forgot about it.

The 90’s was a time of hope and optimism. We believed that the collapse of communism ushered the era of peace, democracy and prosperity.  The longing for peaceful cooperation between the nations was so strong that we kept overlooking multiple and very clear warnings; we decided to blindly enjoy the peace dividend.    

For quite some time, I would even say for way too long, Europeans were suffering from “strategic procrastination” symptoms, refusing to act until left with no other option.

In the recent past, we have refused to see the signals that Putin was sending us:  such as war on Georgia, annexation of Crimea, insurgence in east Ukraine, murders of its opponents across Europe and so forth.

Czechia was not an exception to the rule. Following the fall of the Soviet empire and the return of democracy, we set ourselves a goal – to “return into the West”. To return to the political and security community of democratic countries represented for new European democracies by the NATO and the EU.

In this, we succeeded. We joined the NATO 25 years ago, in 1999, and the EU 20 years ago, in 2004. NATO membership safeguards our freedom, security, independence, and economic stability. The EU membership is a bedrock of our prosperity.

Once we reached that goal, our vigilance declined. Europe was still dreaming about eternal peace, while Moscow was already in a geopolitical conflict with Europe. After all, it was Ukrainians’ wish to strengthen ties with the EU that brought tensions to a head with Russia in 2013–14.

Only the Russian attack against Ukraine two years ago was that “no other option” moment. Finally, we understood that Putin’s ultimate goal is to destroy and renegotiate the European security architecture to make it favourable to Russian interests. In this twisted vision, the sovereignty and integrity of nearby countries, freedom and will of their citizens would have to align with the Kremlin’s policy.

At last, we woke up and got our act together. It is a new element in the international arena, and it is extremely important. Russia declares it is fighting the “collective West”.

This may be one of few Putin's truthful revelations; if not the only one. The war in Ukraine is our war. Our future is at stake. And make no mistakes! If we allow Russia to destroy Ukraine, if its aggression goes unpunished, other predators around the globe will follow suit.

Ukraine is fighting for its survival. Ukraine also fights on our behalf and we must support it politically and militarily.

Russian imperial ambitions have no limits. Unless we set them. Late president Václav Havel once said that “the Russian problem for many centuries is that Russia doesn't exactly know where it begins and where it ends.”

If it were allowed to, Russia would not hesitate to take on the formal Eastern bloc territories. A defeat of Ukraine would bring the winner new resources and open the gate for other “special military operations” in Central and Eastern Europe. You can think about all the various consequences to the world security.

Two years into the Russian aggression, the conflict in Ukraine has evolved into a war of attrition and Putin is clearly betting on us to blink first. We shall prove him and all his attentive partners wrong!

We must remain focused on Ukraine's military and defence needs and increase pressure on Russia and its allies through sanctions. We must continue to conduct active and smart multilateral diplomacy. Czechia on its own as well as a member of the European Union is very active in all of those fields.

In this respect, politicians have an important Strategic communication responsibility. Personally, I keep explaining back home that in Ukraine, the stakes are high for our own security.

Let me come back to one of the aspects I mentioned earlier – the central role of NATO in the European security architecture. That is nothing new, but there were times, in the recent past, when we have tended to forget about it.

In certain way, we can say that no one has sharpened the minds of the Europeans more that Vladimir Putin did.

Since 75 years, NATO has been bringing stability to Europe. The Alliance not only serves as a shield against external attack, but also as a framework for cooperation and communication in the transatlantic community. NATO represents the institutional umbrella of the Western community and helps to mitigate possible friction between its members.

The entry of Finland and soon of Sweden and the interest of other countries to join the Alliance proves that NATO membership does not lose in its attractiveness.

European countries that are not part of the collective defense system and lack credible security guarantees are in a security vacuum that the aggressor may exploit at an appropriate opportunity.

That is why we consistently support the open-door policy and offer our political support and practical advice to potential candidates for NATO membership. Among them are Moldova, Georgia or Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Technologies and trade have made our planet a more complex and in certain way a smaller place where we depend on each other more than ever in history. The level to which is our world connected is another new element to consider.

That is true about many aspects of our lives, and it is particularly true about security. Euro-Atlantic and Asia–Pacific securities are interconnected, we cannot deal with security challenges separately and independently.

Russian aggression against Ukraine is the most imminent security threat – certainly to us in Central Europe. However, there is no doubt that the rise of China is the greatest systemic challenge to the current international order. China’s foreign policy is becoming increasingly aggressive.

The Beijing regime does not even conceal its ambition to alter the international system anymore. China has been promoting its governance model to the countries of the so-called Global South.

It has stepped up its efforts to get key multilateral organizations under its influence, especially those setting international standards. And – we should be honest about this - it has some success in doing so.

Russia has opted for brutal, barbaric tactics; China has so far been rather patient, but this is also changing. Many democratic countries, including Czechia, have to deal with direct influence operations of China.

Increasingly, we hear threats from Beijing that use of military force against Taiwan cannot be ruled out. China is already closely watching how the Russian war unfolds. It supports Russia politically and morally; and ruthlessly profits from this conflict economically and politically.

In its Strategic Concept, NATO agreed to tackle threats and challenges coming from all direction, including China’s coercive policies.

Those who challenge the UN Chapter and rules based international order ever closely cooperate.  The community of democratic countries, we must do the same and better.  Our democratic values give us the base but we must start working much harder not to lose them.

NATO is aware of the importance of the partnership with Indo-Pacific 4 countries. It is developing special relationship with Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. These partners got invitation to the last two NATO summits, and we wish them to be invited this year again.

NATO highly values your role in protecting rules-based international order, supporting Ukraine or non-proliferation. In the areas of technologies, cyber or hybrid threats, distance plays no role and countries like Japan have much to offer.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

to conclude, let me touch upon one aspect that is fundamental to our long-term prosperity and security – the resilience of our societies, their cohesions, the level of support and trust of our citizens for the policies we promote.  

We live in an era of social media, in a world of new platforms and abundant information sources. In this information jungle, many people search for their own identity. They lack bonds. They have questions about the meaning of their own lives and about the future of our societies, where one crisis follows another. 

An increasing number of our citizens long for a strongman, someone who “puts the world in order”, who would make it “simple again”. The same people, however, have never been more attached to free speech and their right to have an opinion about everything on social media.

These developments have changed the nature of societal debates, and in fact of society itself. People only seek to win the argument; they are less interested in revealing the truth; it is a one-way traffic. The opponent becomes an enemy.

Democracy is a conversation. A dialogue is about listening and seeking understanding. How to rehabilitate that democratic dialogue will be one of the big questions of the years ahead.

It is not the first time we stand at a crossroads. The outcome depends on ourselves; we hold our fate in our own hands. I wish us that we find the right answers and come out of this struggle strong.


Thank you for your attention.