NATO Days 2015 - Ostrava / Czech Republic

The third largest city of the Czech Republic, Ostrava ( when belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire it was called OSTRAU), is located in the northeast of the country, some 50 km away from the Polish border. The annual held NATO Days, one of the largest European Military & Security events, takes place on Ostrava's local Airport (Leos Janacek Airport), which is located in south of the city. Special units of the police, military and rescue forces, plenty of tanks and artillery units show together with all kind of military aviation their skills. Although the name NATO Days suggests that it is the official event of the biggest Western military alliance, this is incorrect. It rather is an event of the Czech armed forces, local rescue and emergency units held together with a host country (in 2014 it was the northern neighbor and NATO member Poland ) and plenty of other guests, mainly coming from other NATO- members. Strictly speaking, there are actually two events in one: the already mentioned NATO Day and the Czech Air Force Day. The latter represents the extensive air component. The importance and also the support that NATO has within its new members (the Czech Republic , together with Poland and Hungary are full members of the alliance since 1999) is remarkable. More than 200,000 spectators were counted over the weekend from the 21st and 22nd of September 2014 . More than enough reasons to have a closer look on the history, presence and maybe future of the NATO.

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The largest Western military alliance called NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION (NATO) has gone through more than just one identity crisis in recent years. Quite often in the last 25 years the existence of the NATO was questioned after the end of the Cold War and the collaps of its Eastern counterpart, the WARSAW PACT. This questioning was mainly based on the lack of a tangible, potential opponent. Many members of the former Eastern Bloc are now part of the Alliance and it looked almost as if this would reduce the NATO to a third-rate umbrella organization with no real responsibilities in the near future. This was accompanied by a drastic reduction in military spending in Western industrialized countries, such as Britain, Germany or Italy and a heavily modified strategy through the use of so-called asymmetrical battle groups in the crisis regions of the Middle East and especially in Afghanistan.
The assumption that all future conflicts will be reduced to third countries, or on pure fighting terrorism has greatly shaken the very foundations of NATO. Antiquated, completely outdated, decomposed, bureaucratic and especially the accusation, to be merely a random toy of the American ally, are just some of the unflattering attributes that were repeatedly used not only by all kind of left-wingers and their associated press members.

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The NATO was founded in 1949 (signing of the contract was on April the 04th of 1949, ratified on August 24th of 1949) with the aim to oppose the Communist threat to Western Europe and the so called free world, respectively being powerful enough to counter any expansion of the Soviet sphere of influence. This part was played by the Alliance until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc emphatically. In the following years, it was mainly the eastward expansion of NATO and the resulting implementation of the new member countries, such as Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic, to name just a few, which kept the alliance busy. The conflict in the former Yugoslavia made ??sure that NATO could insist on their right to exist (although it was not really a case of alliance, NATO Forces were employed [1998]  during the air campaign over Serbia as the big stick of Western security policy). After the devastating terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001 for the first time in the history of the alliance a case of emergency materialized (NATO case of emergency = in the event, that any NATO member is under attack all other members are to provide military assistance). In case of the September 11th aftermath all members were united in their support of the United States to fight against terrorism. When the Americans planned their invasion in Iraq the first disagreements within the willingness to cooperate of individual member countries came up. There was no NATO deployment in Iraq, member states, such as Germany, Greece and Belgium, refused their support. The thereby formed rift within the Alliance was even greater while and after the Iraq crisis, when it became known that all the reasons listed by the Bush administration for the invasion of Iraq was based on false information and desires of the Americans

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Further problems and discrepancies, especially with Russia, caused the expansion of NATO, especially with the so-called eastern enlargement. Various advances under the auspices of the United States and the United Kingdom in accordance with their new allies Poland, Czech Republic and the Baltic States, came not only on reciprocal love. Especially the repeatedly touted missile defense shield (Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence [ALTBMD]) has led to major disagreements with Russia. This approach of the West (and hence NATO) has, albeit indirectly, not really stabilized the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Russia has always announced their displeasure and their concerns to an integration of former Soviet satellite states into NATO. The idea that the Ukraine, Georgia and other countries with a common border with the Russian Empire are full members of the Western military alliance, is just as unthinkable for the Russian soul, as the situation for Washington represented with Fidel Castro's Cuba in the 1960s . Today all the blame for the current situation in eastern Ukraine is, pushed by the very one-sided reporting of Western media, exclusively attributed to the acting Russian President Vladimir Putin (not that he would be of any responsibility, note d.. Authors). The fact is completely ignored, that the former Ukrainian President Yulia Tymoshenko already sought membership in NATO, which was returned from the table only by the election of the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. The faith question of whether Ukraine will integrate into the European sphere of influence, and thus in the EU and in NATO, or traditionally allies with Russia, divides the country. The rest you can hear every day in the news, still the real reasons for the unrest in the eastern Ukraine are much deeper than the current press coverage makes us believe.
Who is guilty and responsibility for the escalation in the Ukrainian crisis is not part of this report. In any case, NATO has benefited up to a certain point from the events. Not only small "frontline states", such as Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania understand their membership in NATO as a fundamental protection against potential aggression, countries such as Germany, the Netherlands or the UK just start to realize, that the 65 year-old military alliance is (again) the guarantor of their security as well.

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The NATO flexes its muscles in the Ukraine crisis - even if only verbally. Militarily, it is hardly in a position to follow up their words with action. The rigorous austerity of the last years in almost all member countries, downgraded the ability of the North Atlantic Pact extremely. Just for example, the United Kingdom owns two of the most modern aircraft carrier, but does not have a single fighter plane that could operate from this! The German Bundeswehr is currently in the public eye, because it has been found that it does have to meet more and more tasks, the much-needed funds for fulfilling its job were slashed continuously by the responsible governments. Numerous equipments are outdated and barely operational, new purchases are either not available (Airbus A400M) or do not meet in many respects the expectations placed in them (NH 90 helicopter). However, the current debate in the media shows only the tip of the iceberg. If NATO is to fulfill her mission now and then, more must be done, as to call for her hysterically in the wake of a crisis!

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Non of these issues could be felt at the NATO Days in Ostrava. A large number of military hardware was presented to the numerous spectators on the ground and in the air. The highlights included mainly the flight demonstration of a Bell CV-22B OSPREY of the 352nd Special Operations Group and a great lineup consisting of three generations of fighter aircraft made ??by SAAB - a Czech JAS 39 Gripen, a J-35C DRAKEN and a AJS-37 VIGGEN. Four Lockheed Martin F-16 (from the Netherlands, Denmark and from Greece) completed together with a Finnish Boeing F/A-18C Hornet, as well as a Slovak MiG-29A (NATO - Code: FULCRUM A) the series of fast jet displays. Unfortunately the participation of aircraft in the flying display from the partnering country Poland was very limited. A display of the Polish Air Force MiG-29A (NATO Code: FULCRUM) had to be canceled due to technical reasons, the rest (Sukhoi Su-22UM3K, PZL-28 BRYZA, etc.) was available from the outset only in the Static.

The weather was excellent, at moderate temperatures with partly sunny intervals everybody was completely satisfied – well, at least those spectators we could talk to! The NATO Days in Ostrava in 2014 have proven that they are one of the premium military show events within Europe and a must for every aviation enthusiast. Cu you there again in September 2016!

Robert Kysela / CHK 6

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