Civil-military Relations in the Czech and Slovak Republics

Published in: Civil-Military Relations: Building Democracy and Regional Security in Latin America, Southern Asia, and Central Europe / Edited by David R. Mares (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998), ch. 6, p. 101-131

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1997

by Thomas S. Szayna

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The cases of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia in the post-1989 period illustrate the divergent paths of post-Communist politics and the development of different forms of civil-military relations. The Czech case represents a situation in which the military retains only a minor role in domestic politics. The establishment of civilian control has allowed the Czech leadership to implement its policy of rapid integration into the international economy. Only states that could conceivably put obstacles in the path of Czech integration are considered potential adversaries. Moreover, the Czech military has put in place a reform plan that clearly bases the future security of the country on Western security institutions, such as NATO. In contrast, in Slovakia, civil-military relations have been influenced by the country's political instability and the absence of a consensus on the proper role of the military in society. Slovakia appears to be still trying to come to grips with its independence and to establish its regional identity. This process has been complicated by the integrative trends in the West and the general discrediting of thinking about security in strictly national terms in Europe. There is discord in the process as pro-integrative forces exist uneasily alongside corporatist and nationalist elements. The military has been torn between the poles. It has tried to protect its autonomous status to prevent itself from being drawn in on the side of one of the domestic political actors. As a result, pro-Western integrationist elements, narrow national and nationalist-based perceptions, as well as reluctance to abandon all ties to Russia all seem to exist in Slovak foreign and security policy. This analysis yields two insights regarding these relationships. First, the Czech case illustrates that an important variable is the level of esteem the military enjoys in society. In democratic countries where the military is viewed as an unnecessary and irrelevant institution, the military may have little influence in identifying threats to the country; the dominant civilian coalition is largely in charge of such processes. Second, the Slovak case suggests that political instability may motivate the military to seek autonomy from civilians and may complicate its effort to identify potential international threats and opportunities.

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