Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Steven Kashkett delivered the keynote address for the Institute of International Relations’ (IIR) conference on “Czech Foreign Policy: The Future of the Global Order,” at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s Czernin Palace on September 23.
In his remarks, DCM Kashkett underlined our strong bilateral cooperation with the Czech Republic in the areas of human rights and good governance, economic growth, and security cooperation. He further highlighted the Czech Republic’s unique role in the future of the global order.
Lastly, Kashkett noted that the US-Czech relationship is stronger than ever today and praised Czech efforts for advancing tolerance, human rights, democracy and justice for all.
Remarks by Steven B. Kashkett, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Prague at the 7th Symposium on Foreign Policy
Institute of International Relations
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic
September 23, 2015
Good morning, Dobry den. I am sorry that I cannot address you in Czech. After two years here in Prague, I am sad to say that I have not made much progress from the three things that I learned to say on first day in the Czech Republic which were: “dobry den,” “dobry vecer” and “muj pes ma strach.” Three very useful, important things that have served me very well but those are the only three things that I can say.
Members of the Institute for International Relations and other distinguished guests, students, etc., I am very happy to have the opportunity to speak to you today about the bilateral relationship between the United States and the Czech Republic and our perceptions of Czech foreign policy. Thank you, Mr. Koran, for introducing me. I am here to give you our perspective as a country that does believe very strongly in the multilateral world order in the importance of addressing issues multilaterally, not bilaterally or unilaterally. So, what I would like to do is talk to you about the U.S. relationship with the Czech Republic. Medium-sized countries like the Czech Republic can be extremely important on the global stage, because today what we find as a so-called “super power” is that almost every issue we deal with is essentially multilateral in nature. We cannot make decisions on our own, nor would we want to make decisions on our own in a vacuum. Everything has an international context. When we look at all of the things that we have dealt with in the last two years or three years, the situation in Ukraine and the questions of Russian aggression and its effect on the security of Europe.
When we look at the rising threat of the Islamic state in the Levant, ISIS or ISIL and the danger that represents to the peoples of the Middle East and beyond. When we look at negotiating a new international trade agreement, such as T-TIP. Or, when we look at today’s crisis – the crisis of migrants and refugees in Europe. Every one of these is a set of problems that must be addressed multilaterally, cannot be addressed unilaterally. So, it matters what every country that’s a member of that coalition or that international grouping has to say about the subject.
So, what makes the Czech Republic unique? We do think that the Czech Republic has had a unique history, has a unique political culture, and an individual point of view and a willingness to play a leading role on certain international issues.
The Czech Republic has the ability to have influence within the European Union, within NATO by taking on the presidency of the Visegrad 4. By being a role model for things such as civil liberties, human rights or the struggle to end corruption in our societies. These are areas in which the Czech Republic can play a distinctive role. The Czech Republic has not had the same history as every other country in Europe. We recognize that because of its experience during the Second World War. Because of its experience during the dark days of Communism. Because of what happened in 1968 and 1989. The nature of the Velvet Revolution in this country. The unique impact that Vaclav Havel has had on the thinking of Czech policy makers and Czech academics today. All of these have given the Czech Republic a unique voice. And if it is willing to use that voice and to claim its influence within the international community. It can play a distinctive and important role on the global stage.
We see the uniqueness and the potential of the Czech Republic in many of the areas that are crucial in U.S.-Czech relations. And what we often see is something that we call in English – it’s a colloquial expression from, I think, from boxing which is “punching above your weight,” which means when a country can have a disproportion influence to its size, a greater influence than its size would suggest.
So, the U.S.–Czech relationship is stronger than ever today because it is based on a true friendship, shared values and mutual interests. As a strong NATO partner and a close friend of the United States, we appreciate that the Czech Republic has supported NATO integration and expansion and has contributed its own expertise and its own resources to build a modern interoperable NATO alliance. We also realize that the Czech Republic is trying very hard and has made a commitment to increasing its defense spending and bringing it up to the level of the NATO standard.
For over the past twenty-five years, we have worked closely together to enhance security, economic development and human rights and democracy. It is those three core areas that I will speak about briefly today.
So, the Czech Republic, I would argue, has played an unusual role again “punching above its weight” on security cooperation. From Damascus, where the Czech Republic has been our protecting power – the protecting power of the United States government since we closed our embassy in Damascus. To Kyiv, where the Czech Republic has supported international efforts to counter Russia’s destabilizing actions and to support economic sanctions against Russia. The Czech Republic is playing an important role.
The two recent NATO troop movements through the Czech Republic – Operation Dragoon Crossing and Dragoon Ride – that took place. One took place just a couple of weeks ago and the other took place several months ago showed a level of support here in the Czech Republic that was extraordinary. Crowds lined the streets; it was a tremendous showing of support among the people and by the leaders of the government. This is an example of how a country can create a demonstrative role for itself. This was a signal of support for the NATO alliance that could not have been missed anywhere, including in Moscow.
The United States has provided the Czech Republic with 91 million dollars in assistance from 2007 to 2014 to train and better equip the Czech armed forces, because we recognize that the Czech armed forces are a special partner for us in many places, primarily Afghanistan. The Czech Republic currently contributes 281 troops to the NATO led resolute support mission in Afghanistan and has been one of our most steadfast allies in Afghanistan, since the beginning of the effort there to end the extremist influence and to empower a stable government that respects human rights in Kabul. For more than thirteen years, this has been an effort that has by definition been multilateral and has involved many different countries. No country could have done it alone, certainly not the United States. There is still a difficult road ahead but what has been accomplished has been accomplished because we have done it together. And we see the Czech military as one of our most important partners there.
The Czech government has also peacekeepers in places like Mali, the Golan Heights and the Sinai. Again, doing things that not every government does that do give it an important voice in international forum. The Czech government has been one of our best partners in the coalition to counter the Islamic state in the Levant. It has donated 2 million dollars’ worth of weapons and equipment to the coalition destined for the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces that are fighting ISIS and is considering other donations as well.
We appreciate this. It plays a significant role. The Czech Republic has some unique, what we call “niche capabilities” that not every government does. The Czech Republic has unusually good special operations forces that are capable of carrying out difficult small missions in war zones and has done so to very good effect in Afghanistan. The Czech military also has some unique abilities in the area of dealing with chemical and biological weapons, which again gives it an influence and a capability disproportionate to its size.
In the area of trade and economic cooperation, the United States enjoys an excellent relationship with the Czech Republic. And we see the Czech Republic, given that it is an export driven economy, as potentially one of our best partners in bringing about the approval of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership, which we hope will one day be approved on both sides of the Atlantic and will contribute to a more open trade environment and the creation of jobs and economic growth in the United States and in Europe. We believe that T-TIP will deepen the partnership between our two countries. We absolutely support the safety, health and the environmental standards in these trade agreements and these standards will be strengthened if T-TIP is approved. It’s a historic opportunity for the United States and the European Union to promote shared Transatlantic interests and to level the playing field in the global market place.
U.S. companies have found the Czech Republic to be a very hospitable place in which to do business and have invested over 5 billion dollars in recent years here.
I would encourage the Czech Republic to continue to support the negotiations that are taking place for T-TIP and play a leadership role. And here is another case, where through its voice, through its influence, it can help the EU come around to support and refine the points of the T-TIP negotiations that will be necessary for eventual approval.
In the area of democracy promotion, human rights, and countering corruption, the Czech Republic is truly unique. It represents among the most active and the most outspoken of the Western democratic allies on these subjects. The Czech Republic is a role model for tolerance, respect for civil liberties and addressing forthrightly, concerns about human rights.
Corruption is something that affects every country. It certainly affected my country and the way a government deals with endemic corruption in government, in the private sector throughout the society says a lot about the government’s willingness to confront its problems openly. Corruption eats away at society and weakens democratic institutions, which is why we are committed to bringing together key players providing whatever assistance we can, sharing knowledge and best-practices and helping the Czech Republic to combat corruption and bring about a fairer, more open method of doing business.
The Czech Republic also has the ability to exert influence on the global stage, by example, through its completely open free press, by its extremely expansive culture, its artists, writers and musicians who have had a much bigger impact on the world of film, literature and music than the size of the Czech Republic would suggest.
We have probably no better partner in supporting human rights and democracy around the world than the Czech Republic. Because of its history, because of the legacy of Havel, the Czech Republic has expertise, credibility and stature that have been put to good use in assisting in democratization and human rights efforts in many places, including places that are difficult for us to operate. We believe that tolerance and respect for other cultures, other religions, other ethnic groups should be at the center of every democratic society. We have our own challenges in this regards and we are trying to face them. And the Czech Republic has also made significant progress in addressing concerns about the treatment of Roma minority and the LGBT groups within this country. We believe that these policies, these opinions that are expressed within this country are essential to burnishing the Czech brand around the world and the Czech brand gives this country more of an impact than it would have just based on its size.
Let me just say a couple of words about the current crisis that we are all dealing with – the migrant and refugee crisis here in Europe. This is an extremely complex problem. We support the efforts of the European Union to develop a comprehensive, coordinated approach to resolving the challenges of this migration crisis. All of us have seen the painful images of refugees from Syria and other countries, who are motivated principally by violence and instability in Syria who are streaming into Europe, searching for a better life, security and safety. We have seen a remarkable effort by European countries to open their borders to accommodate this extraordinary human wave of refugees. And we applaud the generosity and welcome steps by the European Union to find a comprehensive solution to this crisis. We understand how difficult it is for every individual country in Europe to wrestle with its own challenges in receiving migrants. We are certainly not trying to dictate in any way how Europe should accomplish this, but we do think that it’s a critically important effort to save and protect lives, to ensure that the human rights of migrants are respected, to promote orderly and humane migration policies and to share the burden. Every country, including ours, has to share the burden both in terms of people and committing resources.
The United States accepts 70, 000 refugees from all over the world in the current year and will accept 85, 000 next year and a 100,000 the year after that. In addition in providing over 4 billion dollars in humanitarian assistance focused on the Syrian crisis, so we are trying, in our own way, or all of us to address this, but this is a multilateral problem and every country, including the Czech Republic has an important role to play.
So, in summary, let me just say that the Czech Republic has the potential to be a leader and to play a leadership role in many different areas multilaterally. And we believe that it is part of the legacy and destiny of this country to do so and we look forward to seeing the Czech Republic continue to have an even greater influence in the United Nations, NATO, the European Union, the Visegrad 4 and in every multilateral crisis that we address together. Thank you.
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