President-elect of the Czech Republic Petr Pavel answers questions from journalists on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on February 18, 2023.
Munich (Germany) – The President-elect of the Czech Republic, Petr Pavel, does not see the crumbling of the West's previous unity in the attitude towards Ukraine and Russia, rather the opposite. At the Munich Security Conference in the Bavarian capital, he told Czech journalists that the West should activate the defense industry in order to help Ukraine and at the same time strengthen its own security due to dwindling stockpiles of weapons. He also said that investing in defense is necessary and that the question is whether the two percent of gross domestic product agreed in NATO will be enough in the future.
“I have to say that the opposite is true,” answered Pavel when asked if the existing unity was not in danger. “If some countries have held more restrained positions for some time, these countries are also calling out that Ukraine needs to be provided with what it needs and in the shortest possible time. An example is Germany, which at a time when we were already supplying, for example, heavy equipment, it was still restrained precisely in the delivery of heavy equipment, because it considered it a risk of escalating the conflict,” he said.
Pavel mentioned German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in this matter, who at the current conference in Munich called on states that could provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine to do so as quickly as possible. “The unity of the West in supporting Ukraine is one of the key factors for Ukraine's success in this conflict,” he added.
The question is whether defense spending in the form of two percent of the economy's output will be enough. “It was an unattainable goal for us for a long time. The government of Petr Fiala pledged that it would be two percent in 2024,” he said. “As it now appears, this ceiling is becoming a floor. For example, Poland is approaching four percent, other countries are over two percent,” he said.
According to Pavel, how to react will be on the agenda. “We should be guided not by where we set the bar, but first define the material needs and only then deduce from that how much it will cost us,” he said.
He sees the strengthening of the capacities of the arms industry as an example of the necessary investments in defense, which would help Ukraine and the European states themselves. “The capacity in European countries is there, it just needs to be put into operation,” he said.
In Munich on Friday and today, Pavel had several meetings, which he described as getting to know each other. He called the meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron one of the most interesting and prestigious. “I was interested in his point of view on the matter,” said Pavel, adding that France, as a large European country, has a strong say in helping Ukraine and in the future of the European Union. I kept him waiting for 15 minutes during the meeting. Not my fault, but that's the way it was arranged here, that the French delegation got the green light, ours didn't, so I arrived about 15 minutes later. But it didn't detract from the friendliness of the meeting in any way,” he said.
Ukraine and Russia were the main topic of the talks with Macron. “We also talked about the need to strengthen and coordinate the European defense industry or the development of nuclear energy without going into details,” he said.