The main topic of the NATO Military Committee meeting in Prague will undoubtedly be the state of the Alliance's readiness to address current security challenges

 30. 06. 2024      Category: Defense & Security

The main objective of this year's NATO Military Committee retreat in Prague, which will take place from 13 to 15 September 2024, will be to discuss key topics related to the current security situation in Europe, the implementation of the NATO Summit conclusions with an emphasis on the development of capabilities in line with the concept of host nation support and the feasibility of the Alliance's defence plans. It will be an opportunity for the political leadership of the Czech Republic to present a "national view" of the Alliance's common defence. The Czech Republic will host the retreat on its territory for the first time in its history (e.g. Slovakia has already hosted the retreat twice, in October 2005 and September 2010).

Picture: Defence Ministry preparing for the NATO Military Committee retreat in Prague | Shutterstock
Picture: Defence Ministry preparing for the NATO Military Committee retreat in Prague | Shutterstock

The NATO Military Committee is NATO's highest military body, which provides military opinions and recommends to NATO's political bodies measures it deems necessary for the common defence. The Committee is composed of the Chiefs of Staff of the member states, who are permanently represented at NATO Headquarters by their permanent military representatives. The current Chairman of the NATO Military Committee is Admiral Rob Bauer of the Netherlands as of June 2021. Traditionally, the Chairman of the Committee is a former Chief of General Staff of one of the allied armed forces. In the past (from June 2015 to June 2018) this important position was held by Czech Army General and current President of the Czech Republic Petr Pavel. The NATO Military Committee meets in the format of permanent military representatives of the member states several times a week, and at the level of the Chiefs of General Staff, usually three times a year. In addition to two meetings at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, a retreat is held once a year in an Alliance member country. The Czech Republic will be the host country for this year.

The retreat is a prestigious meeting which goes beyond the purely military in its significance, as it has a wider military-political impact. Outside NATO Headquarters, it is organised mainly for the opportunity to learn about the society, culture and history of a given country, when the main participants of the event, accompanied by their partners, meet the top political officials of the host country, attend a concert or other cultural event, or visit the most important cultural, natural or historical monuments.

The main participants in the Summits include, in particular, the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, the Chiefs of Staff and their permanent military representatives of both the Alliance and the partner countries, and both Strategic Commanders: Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR) and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), the Director General of International Military Staff (DGIMS) and invited guests (e.g. Secretary General of NATO, etc.).

The NATO Military Committee retreat in Prague represents one of the most important and priority events not only for the Ministry of Defence but also for the entire Czech Republic. Moreover, the meeting takes place in the year when we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Czech accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Joining the Euro-Atlantic structures and the subsequent anchoring of the Czech Republic in NATO represents one of the most historically important steps in the history of the independent Czech Republic. In view of the current deteriorating security environment in the world and, in particular, the worsening security situation on the eastern flank of the Alliance, membership in the strongest global defence system is essential for ensuring our security and stability. After a quarter of a century of NATO membership, the Czech Republic has already played the role of a confident and active ally, honouring its membership commitments and contributing significantly to the Alliance's foreign missions and operations. The organisation of the exit meeting in Prague is an excellent opportunity to highlight the quality of the Czech armed forces and their ability to participate in the Alliance's decision-making mechanisms.

The meeting itself and the press conference will take place on 14 September 2024. 350 foreign participants are tentatively expected. In addition to the Ministry of Defence, other ministries and state institutions are also involved in the implementation of this important and large-scale event.

In the context of the aforementioned retreat, we asked a few questions to the military representative to NATO and the EU, Lt. Gen. Ivo Střecha:

The NATO Military Committee retreat is still in the preparatory phase. However, can we already estimate what priorities the Committee will deal with?

The agenda of the meeting has been under preparation for some time, but it is already clear that one of the key points will be the conclusions of the Washington Summit. The basic topic will undoubtedly be the state of preparedness of the Alliance to meet the security challenges we face today in three key tasks - defence and deterrence, crisis management and collective security. There will be a discussion on the state of defence planning, building the capabilities of the armed forces and cooperation with partners. Support to Ukraine will be an equally important part of the agenda.

Picture: Lieutenant General Ivo Střecha | Czech Army
Picture: Lieutenant General Ivo Střecha | Czech Army

How important do you think it is for the Czech Republic that this meeting is being held here?

It will be another important meeting this year, this time of the top military bodies of the Alliance, which will be hosted by our Republic, which puts us in the spotlight of a very large part of the world. For the Czech Republic, this is a very important event and also a bit of an acknowledgement of our support for the Alliance's efforts and a show of confidence that we are able to provide all the necessary support for such a summit. The meeting will also have its less formal part, and as I hear around me, all my colleagues from the Alliance countries are very much looking forward to coming to Prague.

What experience can the Czech Republic offer to the other members of the Committee?

As far as the troops are concerned, probably experience in supporting the training of Ukrainian soldiers on the territory of the Czech Republic and on the territory of our allies. Perhaps we can also share lessons learned from the accelerated modernisation of the army, the acquisition of new technologies and weapons systems. We are all dealing with similar problems and it would be a mistake not to learn from others.

 Author: Jan Zilvar