The new Czech national security strategy: A wake-up call in a tumultuous world

Strategic Insight 026/2023

Katarina Hynkova

28 September 2023

The new Czech national security strategy: A wake-up call in a tumultuous world

At the end of June 2023, the Czech government approved a new National Security Strategy. A couple of years ago, a similar text would cause diplomatic and media uproar. Yet, there has been no major mainstream media outcry over the strategy’s statement that ‘Czechia is not secure’ or that it must prepare for the eventuality of an ‘intensive multidimensional conflict’. No formal diplomatic protest took place over naming and shaming specific countries for the worsened international environment. Nevertheless, this may not indicate widely shared public understanding about the seriousness and proximity of current security threats and challenges.

At the political level, agreement on the strategy’s hard-hitting text proves that the Government and President are on the same page. Demonstrating the courage to confront uncomfortable realities, while emphasising the gravity and inherent cost of maintaining national security. The reception towards the new national security strategy in recent months has also shown that the political opposition are largely in sync, too.

The strategy is not a political statement to be made and forgotten. Assigning the origins of security threats and challenges to nations such as Russia, China, Iran, or North Korea is not arbitrary; it has a significant purpose. This identification enables focused monitoring of detrimental impacts in various domains, from homeland and economic security to cybersecurity. In fact, the strategy provides for a binding, and to some extent explicit, guidance for actions within the whole government and public sector, including public agencies and local authorities. As a result, they will not ignore the strategy when conceiving international partnerships or acquiring new technical equipment. Furthermore, while not legally obligated, businesses and individuals are encouraged to draw inspiration and guidance from this strategy for various activities—ranging from trade, working with information to securing their personal computers.

The strategy emphasises that the long deterioration of our security environment may culminate dramatically. This is to say that Czech concerns are in no way routine and the West needs to prepare for a possible intensive multidimensional conflict. In this context, Czechia’s level of preparedness could significantly influence the future landscape and character of both Europe and the broader global community.

As a response to current threats, the strategy advocates for comprehensive resilience across multiple domains—from administrative and societal structures to economic, judicial, and individual levels. It underscores the importance of education, social inclusion, and public awareness in fortifying resilience against the increasingly volatile and unpredictable shifts in the global landscape.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, coordinator and penholder of the strategy, led the process for good reason. As the strategy explains, the main source of threats is the worsening international environment. The process began in September 2022, comprising a substantial reflection phase, engagement with prominent Czech think tanks and interested members of Parliament, as well as an inclusive inter-governmental working group. This process brought up interlinkages and highlighted the complexity of security.

The security interests of the Czech Republic have remained quite constant since 2003, namely to ensure sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and democratic rule of law. Like the three preceding strategies in 2003, 2011 and 2015, this latest iteration seeks to answer the basic question of how to protect these generally unchanging security interests against the background of a dramatically changed security environment. There are, however, two important innovations in this strategy’s approach.

First, it newly introduces ‘Key Messages’ which respond to a need for a successful strategic communication on security policy. The Government simplifies complex strategy into a handful of key messages, doing away with all bureaucratic caveats to increase understanding across media and the public even where the Prime Minister acknowledges that citizens are not required to fully share the Government’s perspective. Citizens are asked to reflect on and take interest in our common security.

The second important development is the inclusion of an additional chapter on ‘Areas of Strategic Concern’ which lays out the tasks that will follow in the fields of foreign policy, economic and energy security, defence, home affairs and cybersecurity. The ambition is to address security as one, complex and interconnected domain. The strategy therefore includes areas such as environmental protection, pandemic security, social cohesion, and protection of the rule of law. The inclusion of such diverse areas in the strategy clearly indicates that a ‘whole-of-government approach’, a key concept in the National Security Strategy, was already implemented during the drafting process.

The significance of the Czech Republic’s NATO and EU membership has increased against the backdrop of the tendency of other actors to assert interests by force. To little surprise, collective security, NATO and the EU are addressed to significant extent by the strategy. At the same time, given the erosion of the concept of cooperative security, the importance of both the UN and OSCE are reduced. There is disappointment about the UN’s inability to deal with major conflicts as well as acknowledgement of OSCE paralysis. Expectedly, technological development and environmental security have become more important strategic security interest areas. The strategy deliberately dwells in more detail on malign actors, emphasising the importance of strategic partners. Seeing an independent Ukraine, firmly anchored in Euro-Atlantic structures, and enhancing partnerships with Asia-Pacific countries are vital new aspects of the strategy. In relation to China, the strategy finds that a potential regional conflict could impact security in Europe and risk triggering a global military escalation. Among Central and Eastern European countries, Czechia aims to be a pioneer in global thinking, extending its focus beyond the current confrontation with Russia. The strategy pays extensive attention to China, not only as a global challenge but also in terms of its direct influence operations in Czechia.

In terms of practical next steps, the Government is committed to evaluating the strategy’s effectiveness by the first quarter of 2025. This assessment will serve as a foundation for refining key national documents like the National Defence Strategy and the updated Foreign Policy Concept. Importantly, this new national security strategy will serve as a guiding framework for various other sectors, from internal security to economic planning. For EU countries, this offers a blueprint for a comprehensive and agile security strategy that can adapt to fast-changing global scenarios. The Czech approach provides an example of how to intertwine domestic and international strategies effectively, thereby strengthening not just national but also European security resilience.

Katarina Hynkova is Head of the NATO Unit at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She was responsible for co-drafting the Czech National Security Strategy (2023).

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