WASHINGTON - As the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) heads into its eighth decade amidst doubts in some quarters of its contemporary relevance, the Czech Republic’s Foreign Minister tells VOA that there’s “huge consensus” among political parties in his country in support of NATO membership and of America’s leadership within the alliance.
“Our membership is very important, and America’s leading role is key to the success of NATO,” says Czech Foreign Minister Tomá? Pet?í?ek.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of NATO membership for the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.
Pet?í?ek recognizes NATO as an organization “of shared values, as well as an instrument to defend those values.”
WATCH: Interview with Czech Foreign Minister
Pet?í?ek says his country shares the prevailing opinion among NATO member states about what constitutes threats to NATO: “we’re facing a more assertive Russia, we need to fight international terrorism, and that we also need to discuss future relations with China.”
China, he says, is an important global player with which NATO member states have yet to engage on a level-playing field; “we want our companies that do business in China to have the same rights as Chinese companies that do business in our country,” a sentiment U.S. businesses and government officials have also expressed.
Asked what is most critical to his country’s peace and prosperity, Pet?í?ek replies: membership in both NATO and the European Union.
The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined the EU in 2004, five years after the three nation states became members of NATO.
Speaking at a commemorative event in Washington, Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz expressed his country’s faith – and hope – in the United States and the transatlantic defense organization. Poland, he says, hopes to see an increased American presence in his country and wants American troop deployment upgraded from rotational to permanently stationed forces, in order to strengthen deterrence.
He said Poland also would like to see is for Washington to consider transferring some of the troops currently stationed in Germany, numbered close to 40,000, to Poland, situated closer to Russia and arguably at higher risk of aggression.