Columns

Ryan Commits to America's 'Enduring Presence' on European Defense to Czech Parliament

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in Prague on March 26, 2018. (Speaker's Office photo)

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) assured the Czech parliament today that “America is committed to an enduring presence in Europe” with legislation increasing support for the European Deterrence Initiative passed by Congress last week.

“It includes beginning the build-up of a division’s worth of equipment being prepositioned over five locations on this continent,” Ryan told the lawmakers in Prague, where he was on a two-day visit and was the highest-ranking U.S. lawmaker to visit the country since President Obama in 2009.

“Every day, just before heading up the stairs to my office in the Capitol, I walk by a bust of [Vaclav] Havel. It was sculpted by a Czech artist who was forced into exile during the period of communist rule,” he said. “The Havel bust is actually just across the hall from a bust of Winston Churchill. I always wonder what those two talk about at night when no one is around.”

Havel addressed the U.S. Congress in 1990, a speech in which the playwright and freedom fighter “reminded the Congress of our collective responsibility to preserve the greatness of democratic values.”

Ryan lauded the Czech Republic as “an example to its neighbors, leading in the NATO alliance, aggressively fighting disinformation, and upholding sanctions against Russia.”

“…We have all pledged to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on our defense. We are glad that the Czech Republic has a concrete plan to reach its goal in the years ahead. And we look forward to seeing you take on a larger share of the defense responsibility. This is not simply about meeting a benchmark. It is about expanding our capabilities to address evolving threats.”

Ryan thanked the Czechs for their coalition service in Iraq and Afghanistan and for being the U.S. protecting power in Damascus.

“I am very encouraged by the discussions we have had here about how to expand our defense cooperation even further… here are the things we do every day to support democracy and human rights,” he said.

Ryan acknowledged that “democracy is not easy,” and “it can be just as hard to keep it as it is to win it.”

“It has its flaws, and that is never going to change. It has its skeptics, and that is certainly never going to change,” he said. “This truly is an ‘endeavor for progress,’ and so long as we are imperfect beings, we will have an imperfect form of government. But there is always that fearless aspiration to do better, pushing us forward.”

“Our task, in the time we have to serve, is to build up the antibodies of our institutions—to leave them resilient enough to endure come what may. This is our great moral and political responsibility.”