As the Czech Republic moves to boost its arms spending under a proposed defense accord with Washington, its ambassador in Washington says his government hopes U.S. defense contractors will bid aggressively for his country's business.
"Obviously, our American friends are [submitting] some tenders for what we intend to buy in the next year. I wish them success," Hynek Kmoní?ek told VOA in an interview this week.
"Nobody says how the tender will end up, but we definitely have the intention to bring as many American military partners to our tenders as possible, because the more competitors you have, the better price you get at the end," he said.
Kmoní?ek said the defense agreement under negotiation is likely to resemble a pact signed several days ago between the United States and Hungary. The U.S. State Department said the Hungary deal "will facilitate greater partnerships to address shared threats and global challenges."
The Czech Republic, Kmoní?ek said, is a nation of just 10 million people, strategically located "on the way from Western Europe to Russia and back."
"If you look at our history, it's not an easy history; everybody liked us, everybody occupied us," he said in explaining his country's reasons for pursuing the bilateral defense agreement.
WATCH: Czech Ambassador: Our Main Defense Partner Is US
"We need friends who understand why we are who we are" and who are willing to form an alliance, he said, adding that the majority of his fellow citizens see NATO as a "seal" of their defense.
Kmoní?ek said the Czech Republic has committed to doubling its current defense expenditures in order to reach the NATO benchmark of 2% of GDP by 2024 — a significant increase but one that enjoys popular support in his country.
"If you look at the opinion of the man in the street, he knows that times have changed, that we're not living in a world as safe as it was 20 or 25 years ago," he said.
WATCH: Czech Ambassador: 'These Are Our Sons'
Ultimately, "what we want to know is whatever we buy for our army" provides the best protection available. "These are our sons," and ensuring their safety is the government's obligation, Kmoní?ek said.
A second component of the proposed defense accord calls for the Czech Republic to work toward "full compatibility with all the other NATO equipment because you need to synchronize with your partners," Kmoní?ek said.
"The main defense partner for the Czech Republic is the United States, so anything new which will come in that respect is more than welcome."
The ambassador said a defense dialogue takes place between the United States and the Czech Republic once a year. He said the new bilateral agreement could be in sight by the time the next round takes place a year from now.