Home > Strategic Analysis > Czech Commanders’ Conference 2012: the end of an era?

Czech Commanders’ Conference 2012: the end of an era?

Published : 9 November 2012
1 053 words in that article

As it is the case every year at the same period, high ranking officials of the Czech Ministry of Defense met on 8th November with Vaclav Klaus, President of the Republic and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Alexandr Vondra, Defense Minister and General Petr Pavel, Chief of Defense Staff. The 2012 edition of this Commanders’ Conference was special for two main reasons:

  • The absence of Prime Minister Petr Nečas, who is currently at odds with President Klaus for reasons of political rivalry, was noticeable since it was for the second time in a while that Premier avoided a meeting with Chief of State;
  • This session was the last one for President Klaus, who will end up his mandate in March 2013, and most probably for Alexandr Vondra who may leave his office in a while. Effectively Mr. Vondra’s defeat during the last senatorial elections of October 2012 already cost him his position of Vice-president of ODS party and his situation as Defense Minister is becoming more and more unstable due to his possible involvement in a case of alleged fraud around the audiovisual services firm ProMoPro that occurred during the Czechs’ EU Presidency in 2009. Moreover the recent political crisis inside the ODS party left Petr Nečas in a weaker position even if he overcome the difficulty and for that precise reason he could choose to reshuffle the government in order to find more stable partners and allies. The unusual briefing summing up the actions of the last two years instead of the last year appears as a kind of political testament and may confirm those rumors of departure.

Thus in a document of two dozens of pages, the Czech Defense ministry listed all the various progresses that have been performed during the last years in several domains: a more efficient management of the Defense Ministry, Armed Forces that are stabilized, material assets and properties of the ministry have been rationalized, the needs of the Air Force are about to be fulfilled, Czech Republic is seen as a reliable partner by NATO, the Ministry is striving to support the Czech Defense Industry, care of veterans is better and fight against communism has been recognized as Resistance.

Some paragraphs are dedicated to the current works and the various terms:

  • Restructuration of the civilian services of the ministry within 2013;
  • Suppression of two Joint commands (Forces Command and Logistics Command) from 1st January 2014 which will lead to reduction of Generals and senior officers positions.
  • Centralization of management of material assets and real estate properties of the Ministry achieved in 2013.
  • Updates of different laws and regulations dedicated to military status or salaries by 2014,
  • Publication of a new Concept of employment of reserves should occur by the end of November. The current document is under examination by the State Security Committee.

Moreover, following the same trend of several other Western armed forces, Czechs confirmed the withdrawal of their troops from Afghanistan by 2014, putting an end to the era of external operations. From 2015 only around one hundred people should stay there in order to train Afghan troops.

In their respective speeches, the main Czech officials made their point, even though sometimes with some bad faith.

For his first participation to this meeting as Chief of Defense Staff, General Pavel remained true to form: brief, practical and forceful. He mentioned the awaited reorganization and the update of laws and regulations but he mainly insisted on the indispensable need of political support and a budget coherent with the tasks assigned to the Armed forces. He reminded that the military high ranking officers had been striving for the last years to convince the political authorities that the Armed Forces were on the verge of losing capabilities, sometimes beyond the limit. He incited the Commanding officers to remain vigilant in 2013, because it will be a year full of tension on the personnel, and to give their subordinates as much information as possible on the evolution of the situation, even though some of it could be unpleasant to hear.

President Klaus hailed the withdrawal of Czech Forces from the theaters of operation and the end of the “expeditionary” era of the Armed forces, characteristic he was already criticizing during the 2010 Commanders Conference. According to him, the Armed Forces must defend in priority the territory and the nation. They should remain with sword in hand waiting for a hypothetical enemy - who is remaining thus unidentified – or a natural disaster - most probably a flood - that could need the help of the armed forces. Remaining true to himself, Vaclav Klaus could not help not criticizing the high number of generals who got a promotion during his two successive mandates: “I nominated during those 10 years the incredible number of 98 generals of the armed forces. When the promotions of generals already nominated are withdrawn, we get more than 60 new nominations. Is it a lot – or just a few? Mr. Klaus rhetorically asked. [2]

Mr. Vondra went back over the assessment of the last years, in particular the evolutions derived from the 2010 White Paper on defense, the adoption of new Defense Strategy (see Opinicus international newsletter), the future reorganizations with the awaited reductions of personnel (suppression of 1600 military positions, including 500 lay-off, and 1000 civilian positions considering that the Ministry of defense has currently about 21 000 military people and 8 000 civilians), the update of laws and regulations about military status or carrier path. Mr. Vondra showed some satisfaction because he managed to stop the negative trend of reduction of Defense budget around 41 billion crowns (1.64 billion euros). It is far from being satisfying but some months ago, the official figures for 2014 Defense budget were 35 billion crowns. Anticipating the period after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Mr. Vondra insisted on necessity to capitalize the experience that was gained during those operations and to go back to basic tasks of armed forces that are the defense of national territory and preparation of new conflicts. He underlined with some satisfaction the positive outcome of the sale of L-159 to Iraq and mentioned the preparation of a call for tenders in case of difficulties within the negotiations with Sweden for new leasing period of aircraft JAS-39 Gripen which should end by the end of November.

Footnotes

[1As a matter of fact – and everyone able to read Czech can check it on the website of the Presidency of the Republic (click here) – Mr. Klaus nominated during his ten years as President only 44 new brigadier generals of the active duty armed forces and promoted 33 persons to the various ranks of the generals. The rest of the 103 nominations of generals made by Mr. Klaus consist of 13 generals in memoriam or veterans, 10 generals from the police forces, 1 general from the customs, 1 general from the prison warders and 1 general from the firefighters. This recurrent attack against a supposed high number of generals is not only Czech but can be transposed as well in France. But non politician ever complained because of the high number of ambassadors, directors of central administration, prefects, and professors of university – in short because of the number of those civil servants one can find in every administration, either Czech, or French. Such a behavior would deserve psychoanalysis.

[2As a matter of fact – and everyone able to read Czech can check it on the website of the Presidency of the Republic (click here) – Mr. Klaus nominated during his ten years as President only 44 new brigadier generals of the active duty armed forces and promoted 33 persons to the various ranks of the generals. The rest of the 103 nominations of generals made by Mr. Klaus consist of 13 generals in memoriam or veterans, 10 generals from the police forces, 1 general from the customs, 1 general from the prison warders and 1 general from the firefighters. This recurrent attack against a supposed high number of generals is not only Czech but can be transposed as well in France. But non politician ever complained because of the high number of ambassadors, directors of central administration, prefects, and professors of university – in short because of the number of those civil servants one can find in every administration, either Czech, or French. Such a behavior would deserve psychoanalysis.