Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta
Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, address the media in the Pentagon Press Briefing Room Jan. 24, 2013. In the briefing, Secretary Panetta and Chairman Dempsey announced the lifting of the ban on women in the military from serving in combat roles. (DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett) (Released)

Leon Panetta calls for military aid to Kiev

On visit to Prague, former U.S. defense secretary and director of the CIA says Putin will foment turmoil in Eastern Europe if region seems weak

Prague, Oct. 21 (ČTK) — The United States and other countries should provide military aid to Ukraine, including heavy weapons, so that Russia comes to realize it would pay dearly for further aggression against Ukraine, former U.S. Defense Secretary and a former CIA Director Leon Panetta said in Prague Monday, daily Právo writes today.

The military aid to Kiev is necessary for Russia to understand that further undermining Ukraine would not be successful, Panetta said at The USA and EU Days conference in Prague, of which Právo, Czech Radio and Czech Television were the exclusive media partners.

He said NATO should reinforce its presence in the countries around Russia and make further aggression impossible in this way.

Panetta said the economic sanctions are just one of the steps the West should take in reaction to Russian aggression, Právo writes.

The United States should help the countries of Central and Eastern Europe develop energy independence so Russia cannot blackmail them with gas and oil, Panetta said.

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin understands strength but that he also understands weakness. If Putin can see weakness in Eastern Europe, he will continue with what he has been doing in Ukraine, Panetta added.

Panetta said the world has recently been facing more threats than in the past half a century.

He mentioned the Islamic State as the biggest threat. He also said the unpredictable North Korea with nuclear weapons and an Iran that has been trying to get these weapons are serious threats.

Panetta was U.S. secretary of defense in 2011–13 and director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 2009–11.

At The USA and EU Days conference, Czech Senate chairman Milan Štěch (Social Democrats, ČSSD) said the European Union should give Ukraine a real chance to become a member, although the EU accession process would be very difficult.

Ukraine needs help, and the association agreement is a good step, but it is not sufficient. Ukraine must have a clear possibility and perspective of joining the EU, Štěch said.

Czech Industry and Trade Minister Jan Mládek (ČSSD) talked about the crisis in Ukraine from the point of view of energy supplies at the conference, Právo writes.

Mládek said the Czech Republic can cope with the halting of gas deliveries from Russia via Ukraine for six months, thanks to its own gas supplies and alternative pipelines.

He also said two nationalisms are fighting in Ukraine, the Ukrainian nationalism rooted in the west of the country and the nationalism that considers Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians only parts of one great Russian nation.

The Ukrainians themselves should make the decision in this dilemma, Mládek said.

The participants in the conference also included Admiral James Stavridis, who was NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe in 2009–13, and human rights activist Martin Luther King III, son of U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., the paper writes.

Stavridis focused on international security threats. He warned against the violent extremism of Islamic State but also of the Boko Haram militant movement in Nigeria.

The use of hard power (military force) cannot be avoided in the short term, but in the long term the soft power of building bridges between nations and listening to one another will be deciding, Stavridis said.

Martin Luther King III praised the 1989 Velvet Revolution and the 1968 Prague Spring reform movement in the former Czechoslovakia as sources of inspiration for the advocates of nonviolent steps.

King also talked about the current unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, where protests and riots started after a white police officer fatally shot a black teenager in August.

King said American society does not pay enough attention to black communities. A lack of trust between the police and black citizens is behind the disorder in Ferguson, he added.

Diversity, human relations and sensitive attitude are needed, King said.

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