Czech-German Security Cooperation

Date of event:

On June 12, the Prague Centre for Transatlantic Relations of the CEVRO Institute (PCTR) in cooperation with Jagello 2000 and DAG - Deutsche Atlantische Gesellschaft held a public debate on “Czech-German Security Cooperation”. The event subtitled “Policy towards Russia and lessons learnt from US elections: Czech and German views on countering Russia’s hybrid warfare before Czech and German elections” was attended by Lt Gen (ret.) Jürgen Bornemann, the former Director General of NATO International Military Staff; Dr. Christian Wipperfürth, an expert on Russian foreign policy; Daniel Bagge, the Director of Czech National Cyber Security Center; and Petr Kolář, the former Czech Ambassador to the US and Russian Federation.

The event was opened by the PCTR Director Alexandr Vondra and the debate was moderated by Tomáš Pojar, the Vice President for International Relations of the CEVRO Institute. The first speaker was Jürgen Bornemann commenting the relations between the NATO and Russia. The aim of creation the NATO-Russia Council was, according to him, to establish special institution for cooperation and consultation with Russia. The Russians, however, had feeling they were never accepted as an equal partner. Moreover, they perceived the end of Cold War as their defeat and wanted the status of superpower back.

Christian Wipperfürth then talked about the German-Russian relations. He said that without the European Union there will be no German-Russian partnership. For a long time, Germany has held the view that security in Europe is possible only with Russia included. But German position changed considerably even before Crimea annexation. After the EU and NATO enlargement German priorities switched from Russia to Poland and Baltics. Now in Germany, the Social Democrats are more interested in Russia than CDU but this topic will probably not decide the upcoming election. In the short term we can thus expect continuation of Chancellor Merkel’s policy and in the long run there will be less Russia in German foreign policy.

Daniel Bagge dedicated his part to the issue of cyber security. He said that the strategic goal of Western society’s potential adversary in this field is to create mistrust or to directly influence the code and content and thus for example influence the elections. Because of sharing and spreading of so-called fake news or alternative facts, nobody has a capacity to say what is true or false now. To face this threat the West should have a communication strategy.

The final speaker was Petr Kolář who recalled how he came to Russia as the Czech Ambassador with a dream that we should really try our best to form a partnership with Russia.  However, the Russian President Putin had a different dream. Russians were testing the West all the time by intervening in its neighborhood. But while we try to influence our neighbors to be stable, Russia does it the other way around. Moreover, Russia cannot compete with us economically or militarily so they are working with our emotions, our uncertainty and they present themselves as the last protectors of Christianity. For Central Europe it is thus important for to have a partnership with Germany on all levels and we also should not our adversaries bring chaos to Europe.

Debate with the moderator and audience followed. Among other topics, Christian Wipperfürth said that Russia is using frictions within Western societies and we therefore need some kind of offensive in internet that could also be used against the ideology of radical Islamists. To the question about the sanctions against Russia he said that while they are already less important than 2 years ago, they are still important symbolically. According to Jürgen Bornemann, we need to remember why the sanctions were implemented and also think about our credibility. When answering the question about USA-Europe relations he added that while the trust of German people in the USA is historically low, we fully understand we need each other.

To the issue of commitment of 2% GDP spending on defense, Jürgen Bornemann said that the whole concept could be revised, because for example Germany would be willing to spend even more if the broader definition of security instead of defense would be implemented.  According to Petr Kolář, there is a problem in the way Russians look at the Central Europe – they cannot understand that we make our own decision because they see us as some confused puppets in the hand of the Americans. In his final statement, Jürgen Bornemann said that he is an optimist because Europe had understand the wake-up call and recognized that the USA are not willing to pay for the whole NATO and also that we have to stay together.

Thanks for their support are due to the partners of the event: Jagello 2000, Deutsche Atlantische Gesellschaft, Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung and Innogy. We would also like to thank media partners of the event: CEVRO and natoaktual.cz.

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