Czech government OKs bill for 2% GDP spending on military

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FILE – U.S. military personnel work near F-35 fighter jet of the Vermont Air National Guard, parked in the military base at Skopje Airport, North Macedonia, on June 17, 2022. On Wednesday Jan. 4, 2023, The Czech Republic’s government has approved legislation to make it mandatory for the country’s defense spending to meet the required NATO goal of 2% of gross domestic product amid the Russian war against Ukraine. Among the planned biggest multi-billion dollars acquisitions of new arms, the Czechs have been negotiating with the United States a possible purchase of 24 F-35 fighter jets and with Sweden a plan to acquire 210 CV90 armored vehicles. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski, File)

PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech government on Wednesday approved a bill aimed at bringing defense spending at the required NATO goal of 2% of gross domestic product as Russia’s war in Ukraine continues.

Defense Minister Jana Cernochova said the move would“ensure a stable and transparent financing of big defense strategic projects in the future.”

Cernochova said the war in Ukraine “made it clear we have to be ready for the current and future conflicts and that’s why a fast modernization of the army is absolutely necessary.”

Although the Czechs will spend only 1.52% of GDP on defense this year, the 2% target should be reached in 2024 once the bill is approvied in parliament where the governing coalition has a majority in both chambers.

NATO members agreed in 2014 to commit to the 2% spending target by 2024. Currently, only nine of the Western military alliance’s 30 members meet or surpass that goal.

The U.S., which provides the bulk of NATO forces, has had a long-standing complaint that several of its European allies don’t pitch it enough.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has expedited the modernization of the Czech military with the planned, multi-billion euro procurement of new armaments. The Czechs have been negotiating with the U.S. about a possible purchase of 24 F-35 fighter jets and holding talks with Sweden for the acquisition of 210 CV90 armoured vehicles.

Czechia has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine, donating Soviet-era weaponry to Ukrainian forces, including tanks. It has also issued almost 475,000 visas to Ukrainian refugees affording them access to health care, financial help, work permits and other benefits.

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