Secretary Kerry’s Priorities for the Czech Republic and France

Craig R. Stapleton (Ambassador to the Czech Republic, 2001-2004; Ambassador to France, 2004-2009)


Czech Republic:

Though the Czech Republic is a small country, it has a strong voice within Europe because of its commitment to NATO and the EU. Thanks to the United States’ close relationship with President Havel, the freedom agenda has been an important link between the Czech Republic and the United States. As Europe deals with the Arab Spring at close hand, the leadership of the Czech Republic has been successful in developing political institutions and can serve as a model for many of the Arab Spring countries. The Czechs proved their military capability within NATO and served with the US in both Iraq and Afghanistan, so military cooperation with the US continues to be important, as does intelligence sharing. Thus the next Secretary of State’s priorities should be to mobilize the Czech Republic as an agent for positive change in the Arab Spring countries and to continue to emphasize military and intelligence cooperation. With a new Czech President who has been a strong voice since 9/11 against terrorism, we have a good ally in the role of President.


France’s role in Europe is adjusting due to a new President whose top priorities are domestic concerns. The most important element for the next Secretary of State is to make sure that France does not diminish its substantial military capabilities, which are now firmly grounded in NATO. With the European economic challenges, the relationship between France and Germany continues to be critical to support economic growth and deal with the uncertainties of the Mediterranean EU countries. France also plays an important part with respect to the Arab Spring, and particularly with negotiations with Iran on its nuclear capability. France’s international reach is the most important in Europe, with particular emphasis on Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. France also has interests and concerns regarding the political stability of Iraq and Afghanistan. In the next four years, France can provide advice, support, and leadership of the most troublesome situations in the world, i.e. Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iran.