Normative aspect: C-
Final mark: C
In 2016, US politicians tended to focus on events at home as the presidential elections reached their climax. Even so, there were several spats in mutual Czech-American relations. In particular, the US side responded negatively to the Czech decision not to extradite Lebanese detainee Ali Fayyad to the US, as well as to Prague Castle’s harsh words directed at the US ambassador to the Czech Republic. The quality of the partnership was also influenced by President Miloš Zeman’s accommodating stance towards Russia and the Czech Republic’s swing towards China. Nevertheless, cooperation was stepped up in key areas such as defence, cybersecurity, and science and research. The Czech Republic can also boast several achievements in economic diplomacy.
Mutual Czech-American relations in the political arena were dented when Lebanese detainee Fayyad was not extradited to the US. The Czech Republic returned him to Lebanon, despite a great deal of interest shown in him by the US secret service. The Czech Republic’s reputation was also tarnished by President Zeman, who verbally attacked Ambassador Andrew Schapiro on several occasions and was vociferous in his support of Donald Trump during the election campaign. The strength of the alliance with the US was also tested by the growing inclination of Czech foreign policy towards China. Indeed, Prague Castle and government politicians paid a lot more attention to China than they did to the US, despite the political importance of the partnership with the US and the strategy set out in the current Czech Foreign Policy Concept.
Political gaffes, however, did not affect progress in trade relations. A deal for an investment upwards of a billion crowns was hammered out with General Electric, which plans to build a factory for the development, testing, and manufacture of aircraft engines in the Czech Republic. The funding available for film production incentives was also increased, and amendments were made to related uptake rules, which now await approval by the Ministry of Culture.
Work began on a host of research and scientific projects last year, underlining the trend in the growing importance of cooperation in science and research. In this context, two delegations headed by Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Bělobrádek were dispatched to the US. Bělobrádek’s trip to Florida in particular was a clear show of Czech efforts to expand contact with universities overseas.
Cooperation also continued in the field of defence and security. In 2016, a number of joint military exercises were held, mainly under the NATO banner, as well as in the scope of contact between the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic and the Nebraska and Texas national guards. Another important topic was defence in the face of cyber threats, a matter which is increasingly taking centre stage in Czech interests, and which looks set to carry on playing a pivotal role in the years to come. In addition, an agreement was reached on cooperation between the National Security Authority and US corporation Cisco.