U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosted an enhanced honor cordon yesterday, welcoming Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová to the Pentagon.
Černochová has confirmed the Czech Republic’s intention to sign the Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States.
“We believe that the [agreement] will deepen our mutual cooperation not only as NATO allies but at the same time in the fielding of our armed forces modernization efforts,” she said, noting that her country wishes to replace its obsolete Soviet-era equipment with modern military hardware.
The Soviet-era military equipment is now being put to good use as the Czech Republic has been sharing it with Ukraine, which is familiar with its use, she said.
“The Czech Republic is ready to send more military equipment to Ukraine,” she added.
Cernochova said that she would also like to sign the reciprocal Defense Procurement Agreement that will enable the Czech defense industry to participate in U.S. defense procurement programs.
The defense minister said that although her country has about 10 million people, the Czech Republic has taken in around 300,000 Ukrainian refugees.
Černochová said the Czech Republic will fulfill its pledge to reach 2% of its gross domestic product in defense spending by 2025.
Austin said: “I applaud the Czech Republic’s leadership [for] standing up against Russian aggression and standing strong with our fellow NATO allies to defend peace and security in Europe.”
The secretary commended the Czech Republic for providing security assistance and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, enhancing deterrence on NATO’s eastern flank and serving as a framework nation in the new NATO battlegroup in Slovakia.
The Czech Republic, Austin noted, also has a state partnership with both the Texas and Nebraska National Guards.
“I know that the Czech people hear history’s echoes today. And we remember the bravery and the determination that the Czech people showed in 1968, when, as a part of Czechoslovakia, you face down invading tanks from Moscow. So, it’s no surprise that you stood up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and self-defense,” Austin said.