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Minister Lipavsky's speech at the conference "Naše bezpečnost není samozřejmost"


Dear Mr. Premier, dear Minister, dear general, ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honor to speak at the tenth anniversary of the conference with such a significant title. Today no one doubts that our security is not secure. Few would disagree that our security is not free; we have to invest into it.

The security strategy, which began under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is being actively shared by the other departments states, is without doubts. The text, which is currently going through the approval process, is not and could not be just a routine update. Firstly, the security setting in Europe has fundamentally worsened. But also because of this, we want to communicate through the strategy, now rather than later, to the public news, domestic and international partners, to public experts, and to our citizens. Security cannot exist in a vacuum.

We are on the threshold of a period of global confrontation. We don’t know what form this conference will take. In an transparent a understandable manner, the government is preparing to say the following things through the security strategy:

  • Czechia is not safe because of the worsening international setting.
  • It is China and above all Russia that are deconstructing the current international order established on rules and respect towards international laws and the interest of all. They try to weaken the EU and NATO and the Western community (anebo Alliance).
  • Membership in NATO and the EU has existential value for Czechia
  • Czechia and its citizens must be resilient and prepared because it could be worse.

A part of the current Security Strategy is also the presumption that when we invest into our security in terms of materials and also expert capacity, we will be able to safeguard our security with our allies.

The preparedness of the state, its institutions, citizens, and military strength are prerequisites for gaining the respect of our adversaries and the trust of our allies. We will certainly hear a lot about this at today’s conference.

As the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I want to focus on another key part of the state’s security system—the foreign service. It’s diplomacy that warns about the risk developments abroad, forms a long-term environment favorable for the promotion of our life interests, builds alliances and partnership ties, and creates a critically important network of countries determined to protect freedom, democracy, and the international order, in which the strength of international law rules over the law (anebo power) of the strongest.

It does not matter whether 150 or only 90 countries in the UN General Assembly condemn Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. It doesn’t matter if Russia has influence in international organizations or if Russia is on the other hand pushed out because of the coordinated efforts of Western diplomacy, including our very active diplomatic efforts. It doesn't matter if Russia and China get an opportunity to significantly influence the activities of UN agencies involved in the creation of standards in the field of telecommunications, new technologies, and the internet, which will fundamentally affect our lives in the coming decades.

The determination of the international system against those that want to change it or destroy it will depend also on our ability to explain our position in Africa and Asia—if we win them to our side. It depends on us to defend against Russia and China’s efforts to weaken our connections with countries in the western Balkans, Eastern Partnership, and elsewhere. It’s renewing our old relationships, creating new relationships, and explaining our position. We must strengthen energy security and raw material security and tackle our dependence on one supplier of critical minerals, upon which the success of the future green transition depends on.

We have neglected many things in this sense in recent years. We have already fixed many things and are still trying to catch up. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not "gutted", as one of my predecessors said. But to bring Czech diplomacy to where it should be and needs to be is a long-distance run. Diplomacy requires investment and time. Top diplomats are not raised in a month, and relations are not built from day to day.

Investing into a state’s defense capabilities and investing into its foreign service are two sides of the same coin. Look around us. I will give examples because the trends in Europe prove the point. France increased the defense budget by about a third but also has approved funding increases for diplomacy by 20 percent. Ukraine—still heroically defending against Russian aggression—is planning to open 10 new departments in Africa to defend against the Russian diplomatic offensive in Sub-Saharan Africa. Estonia, with a population of not even 1.5 million people, named ambassadors with specific missions in five African countries and plans to open its first department in Sub-Saharan Africa. Poland is opening an embassy in Rwanda and is increasing its engagement on the continent. I could go on like this for even longer.

Unfortunately, the global outlook does not paint a more secure picture; many states are still vulnerable today. Besides the Covid pandemic and increasing climate change, debt traps are also a worsening trend, which many African and Asian states fell into. This results in increased risk for our future. An important and traditional role in their mitigation is played by development and humanitarian aid. Czechia is one of the wealthier countries on the planet and has repeatedly declared its responsibility to help the weaker ones. These promises need to be fulfilled; they are one of the cornerstones of our credibility on the international scene. At the same time, our government follows a strong tradition of defending human rights and supporting democracy. It is one of the best ways that Czechia can present itself in the world, but it is also an effective tool for strengthening our security. States that violate the basic rights of their citizens are by their very nature a greater security threat to other states and to the international community as a whole. Russia, China, Venezuela, Myanmar, Iran can serve as evidence of this claim.

Last month, Czechia announced its candidacy into the UN Security Council for the years 2032 to 2033. With this, Czechia is wanting to get involved in solving global problems. It is an exceptional and prestigious position regardless of Russia’s current efforts to paralyze and abuse the UN’s work. The elections are still far away, but we are already activating our networks of contacts, which I believe will help us win the elections in 8 years.

The time when Europe could collect the dividend of peace and neglect investments into its security has ended. Aggression against Ukraine is brutal, but it’s only one aspect of Russia’s imperial relations against Europe, the West, and the entire free and democratic world. We all hope and will do our best for Ukraine to win. But regardless, we will not have normal relations with Russia for a long time. A mere change in Russian leadership will not be enough to abandon our policy of containment and international isolation of Russia. Only a truly deeper transformation of Russian society and resignation of confrontation with its neighbors and the West will allow us to build a new, friendly relationship with Russia and establish a security architecture in Europe based on cooperation and mutual trust. Until then, unfortunately, Russia will be a direct threat to all of Europe.

The idea of “change through trade” didn't work in the Russian case. And I am afraid it will not work in the case of China either. We should accept the reality that the second largest global economy  is more and more a systemic rival, challenge, and in some areas a threat. Even taking into account its weight in the international system, it makes no sense to talk about separation, but we must work on a drastic reduction of dependence where it may threaten our strategic interests. This too will be an investment in our future security. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its diplomats are an integral part of the state's security apparatus. They help promote our national interests and must be even better prepared and equipped in the near future to be on the front lines of the fight to ensure the security and prosperity of the Czech Republic. For all of this, I also rely on your support.

I thank you for your attention.