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Speech by the Minister Jan Lipavský at the Conference "75 Years of NATO: How to Keep It On Track"
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Speech by the Minister Jan Lipavský at the Conference "75 Years of NATO: How to Keep It On Track"

 

Senate, Wallenstein Palace, Prague, 30 May 2024

Dear President of the Senate,

Dear Ministers,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here in the Senate at this conference organised by Jagello. I am truly pleased to welcome here my dear colleagues from Finland and Poland for this intellectual warm-up ahead of our tomorrow’s NATO ministerial meeting. 

Let me start by describing the world we are currently living. I would call it a world of international disorder.

We live in a world in which the Kremlin's Tzar has bought into his own imperial dreams - the dream of having the best army in the world, the dream of being able to do whatever he pleases, without any consequences.

In autumn of 2014, two of his GRU agents blew up an ammunition depot near a small village of Vrbětice. Two innocent Czechs, two fathers, died. No, let me be more precise. They were killed. By Russian agents. On NATO territory.

Four years later, those same two agents attempted to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter with novichok in Salisbury. They survived but by an unfortunate coincidence a member of public, Dawn Sturgess, died. Killed by Russian agents. On NATO territory.

And just as the Kremlin treats its enemies abroad, it treats its own people.

Just think of all the sneaky murders of opposition politicians or regime critics.

Sergei Yushenkov, Anna Politkovskaya, Aleksandr Litvinenko, Natalya Estemirova, Sergei Magnitsky, Boris Nemtsov, Alexei Navalny.

I could go on. I should go on because all of these people in their own brave way exposed the regime for what it really is.

A brutal and twisted wannabe empire.

We have our own experience in this country with “falling out of windows”. Two weeks after the 1948 Communist coup in Czechoslovakia, Jan Masaryk, a staunch democrat, son of the founder of the state, and our first post- second world war foreign minister was found dead outside a third-floor window of the very building where the NATO meeting will take place tomorrow – the Czernin Palace. 

One year later, Norway joined NATO. The developments in Czechoslovakia were the decisive reason why it decided to abandon its hesitant position.

The current efforts are not too different. Two new allies, Sweden and Finland, have joined us as a result of the brutal aggression against Ukraine.

The Russian leadership is following in the footsteps of the Soviet Empire. After all, let us not forget that Putin declared the collapse of the Soviet Union as a “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very glad that Prague is the city, which is hosting this NATO ministerial.

The very street that you just came down here was full of Soviet tanks 56 years ago. People still remember. And they are united in saying: Never again.

Till this day, if you go and have a look at our National Museum, you can still see the bullet marks from the tanks that occupied us.

After the Second World War Moscow hijacked our region into the Russian sphere of influence. Somewhere we did not belong and did not want to belong. We are a Western country

Moscow literally kidnapped the West in us – as Milan Kundera so accurately called it. It trying to do the same all over again.

Constant hybrid warfare. Cyber attacks. Lie-poisoned propaganda. Espionage under diplomatic cover.

Russia is sowing seeds of chaos globally, viewing turmoil as a storm of confusion through which Putinism can rise. Just look at the coups in Africa. I propose we come up with a credible strategic approach towards Russia. Because only a strong NATO can be the antidote to this chaos.

For that to happen, there are several steps that must be taken. 

We should start by finally abandoning the self-serving Western rhetoric of fear of escalation. Russia crossed all the possible red lines and acts with no restrain. After his inauguration, Putin feels more empowered and more entitled.

We must give up its cautions approach and focus on a more assertive strategy to counter Russian aggression. Ukraine cannot fight against Russia with one hand tied behind its back. Ukraine must be able to fight against Russia's barbaric invasion even on Russian territory.

Political resolve must be backed by credible capabilities. Our defence industry must mobilise resources and increase its production. We must remove the financial and banking constrains preventing us from being able to speed up to the war economy. We must support Ukraine in defending its airspace.

 

And we have to work harder to strengthen our resilience, both individually as well as collectively within NATO. To build a resilient society that will be able to counter the hybrid warfare. Hand in hand with that, we must work on economic resilience free of toxic dependence on unreliable countries.

And finally, if Russia is riding the war economy, so must we. An economy of readiness and determination. We cannot fall complacent. We must invest in our defence.

The 2% GDP minimum made sense during peace times but now a gradual increasing of defence and innovation spending is a must if we want to contain  Russia’s aggressive activities. And if we want to make the Alliance future-proof.

The Czechs, along with other nations that have suffered under Russian imperialism, have a special role in this struggle. We are the ones who escaped from the prison that Moscow built for us. And around us. We know what it is like to live in that prison.

Thirty-five years ago, we regained our freedom as the prison walls collapsed. After all the building of my ministry is also the place where the Warsaw Pact – the very symbol of Moscow’s prison – was dissolved.

It is our duty to continually remind those who watched from the outside just how dreadful that place was. We must ensure that Moscow is never allowed to rebuild it. Not in Ukraine. Not anywhere. And this is what I will stress in tomorrow’s discussions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

if I can leave you with one message, it is this:

Let’s stand up to the bully.

Thank you for your attention.

.