June 18, 2015
Prague, Czech Republic
Thank you. Well, thank you everybody for coming today. I am delighted to be back in Prague. I had a chance today to call on Deputy Prime Minister Babiš, on the President’s Foreign Policy Advisor. I was hosted for lunch by Foreign Minister Zaoralek. I had a chance to talk to civil society. But the real reason for our visit was to conduct the sixth annual round of the U.S.-Czech Strategic Dialogue. This is a dialogue that we instituted, as I said, six years ago to allow us to sit together in an interagency way and review all of the things we do together.
So today, hosted by Deputy Foreign Minister Kulhanek, we had discussions about all the European security issues that we work on together, including our NATO issues, the situation with Russia, our support for Ukraine. We also talked about the full complement of Middle East issues and we reviewed energy security. I’d like to say that from a U.S perspective, our alliance with Czech Republic is extremely strong. We are very grateful for all that the Czech Republic does out there in the world in the field of peace and security — whether it’s fielding forces and trainers in Afghanistan, whether it’s your supply of ammunition to Iraqi forces or your participation in the ISIL coalition.
Everything that you do to keep the EU and the transatlantic position strong with regard to Ukraine, both in terms of applying costs on Russia for its aggression but also the economic and political support that we are providing to Ukraine as that country seeks a more democratic, European and clean future. So we talked about all of those things.
We also talked about the vital importance of a vibrant approach to energy security across the European continent. The Czech Republic provides transport for lots of different routes and is crucial for other neighbors and partners. You also have an excess of electricity, which you generously offer to others. And equally importantly, we talked about our shared commitment to keep our democracies, clean, open and transparent. The campaign here to fight corruption, to have an open, transparent system, to reform your judiciary, these are important not simply as a matter of keeping your democracy healthy and ensuring that it serves people rather than people serving government. But they’re also a matter of national security now because corruption and dirty money can be used to influence politics from the outside.
And of course, we had a chance to celebrate the values that we have in common, our respect for human rights, our strong sense of the importance of democratic governance, free markets, etc. around the world. Prague [was] always known as a bastion of values and that is just as important today as it’s been for the last 25 years, which takes me to your economic situation. Very pleased to see the economy in the Czech Republic growing strongly, growing more strongly than the European average. In U.S.-Czech terms, our bilateral trade has increased 2 times in 5 years, which is really outstanding.
And we talked obviously about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — the TTIP — and what that will do for both sides of the Atlantic, but particularly the benefits that accrue to an economy like that of the Czech Republic, which depends so much on exports. So we really think that you all will be net winners in the TTIP and we’ve been very gratified to see strong support for it across the coalition.
So those are just the few of the things we talked about today: a really, really strong partnership; a really, really strong alliance. And delighted to review it today and celebrate it with your government and with Civil Society. I’m ready to take a couple questions. Q: If I may just ask with, uh, my name is Blahoslav Hruška, from Lidové noviny daily, if I may start with the energy issue, which you have mentioned. One of the key issues is the dependence on Russian supplies in the gas sector. Where do you [put] the chances for Central Europe to diversify this kind of energy source?
A/S: Well, we had a very good discussion of that today. You are right that the U.S., in our conversation with Europe, is encouraging continued diversity of supply and breaking the dependence on a single source or a single type of energy. The Czech Republic plays a crucial role in that as a transit country, as a supplier of electricity. We talked today about the work that we’ve already done together for reverse flow energy back to Ukraine, the good advances that we see in LNG and gas in Northern Europe and the Baltics. And we talked about the work that lots of the neighboring countries are doing to diversify. For example, the work that Bulgaria and Greece are doing now on an inter-connector. The work that we’re doing with Croatia to explore offshore gas there. All of which have the potential to push more sources of energy into Central Europe and particularly into those countries that have been dependent on single source. And the work that you do here is very important, not just as a transit country, but also as a strong voice inside the EU for commission policies that promote diversification, that promote new routes, promote new pipelines.
Q: Kateřina Prochazkova, Czech Television, I would like to ask the Assistant Secretary. Recently, the Russian President announced a program to strengthen their military, including putting in [inaudible] and modernizing the Russian army. So, will this affect the U.S. military deployment in Europe or lead to any changes in the strategic deployment [inaudible] in Europe?
A/S: Well, first to say that those kinds of announcements when made publicly like that obviously have a rattling effect. When we look at what’s actually happening inside Russia, it’s far less dramatic. They’re modernizing some of their existing missiles and we fully expect, and will insist, that Russia keep its commitments under the arms control agreements that we have and that all of this be within that system of verification. So we will be watching extremely closely what happens there.
Q: (Katerina Prochazkova, Czech Television) Can we talk about the Baltic States as well? I think there are some plans to deploy some military [inaudible]?
A/S: I think you know that we have, since we saw the first Russian aggression in Crimea and as it accelerated into Eastern Europe, we have, as a family of NATO allies, had to take steps to strengthen our own security because we face an unpredictable Russian now. That has involved more exercises, more reinforcement, particularly along NATO’s eastern edge. All 28 allies, including the Czech Republic, have played a role in that, whether on land or sea or air. For the United States, we’ve been offering about a billion, putting about a billion dollars extra per year into our military to allow us to maintain a steady cycle of deployment. With regard to the question of prepositioning military equipment, I think you know that we have regularly prepositioned equipment in places where we need to use it. When you’re in a very busy exercise schedule, it’s obviously more cost-efficient to have the same equipment stay in place. So, we’re looking at what makes sense there in terms of cost, but most importantly in terms of maintaining a very, very strong deterrent. So, in these unpredictable times, we can ensure that every single one of our NATO allies, no matter what their geography, feels safe and we mount a strong deterrent to any adventurism.
Q: What we’ve heard from sources, sorry my name is Jan Lopatka, from Reuters. We’ve heard, seen reports in the New York Times, and Reuters as well, that specified some of the plans for prepositioning. Could you tell us what the state of decision-making of that plan is?
A/S: As I said, we have over the years as we’ve had a busy exercise schedule, we have done some prepositioning. We’re continuing to look at what more might make sense, both in terms of cost-efficiency but also in terms of readiness and mounting a strong deterrent. But I don’t have anything specific to announce today.
Thanks very much everybody. Great to be with you. You’re lucky to live in this beautiful city.