By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (May 23, 2023) -- Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Jana Cernochova, defense minister of the Czech Republic, today signed a security cooperation agreement that is meant to further strengthen defense ties, enhance NATO operations, advance transatlantic security, and protect shared interests and values between the two nations.
"I'm proud that we'll sign the defense cooperation agreement today," Austin said. "It will deepen our defense ties even further, enhance our interoperability, strengthen NATO, and increase stability in Europe."
In advance of their talks, Austin said the relationship between the U.S. and the Czech Republic is stronger than it has ever been.
"Our strategic partnership has never been stronger, and that's especially true after Russia's cruel and unprovoked assault on its peaceful neighbor, Ukraine," Austin said. "I know that your citizens hear the echoes of Moscow's invasion in 1968, so we are very glad that the Czech Republic has committed itself to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes."
Austin also thanked the Czech defense minister for contributions to defending NATO's eastern flank.
"The Czech Republic is leading the way as a framework nation in the new NATO battlegroup in Slovakia," he said. "So, thank you, Madam Minister, for your contributions to the alliance and for being a strong, clear voice for NATO unity."
The U.S. defense secretary also noted that July marks the 30th anniversary of the Czech Republic's partnership with Texas and Nebraska National Guard units as part of the National Guard's State Partnership Program.
The security cooperation program is managed by the National Guard Bureau. It links a state's National Guard with the military of a partner nation. The relationship allows both the Guard unit and the partner nation's military to further their respective defense goals. Today, 88 such partnerships exist with 100 countries.
Cernochova commented on how long the U.S. and the Czech Republic have been allies and how the new agreement would only continue to strengthen that relationship.
"I'm glad that the United States is still deeply engaged in Europe's security and is our most important ally," she said. "The defense cooperation agreement will make our cooperation even stronger."