Security threats that the West is currently facing were the main topic of the panel organized by the CEVRO Institute Center for Transatlantic Relations with Robert O'Brien, former national security advisor to American President, Donald Trump.
The panel was hosted by Tomáš Pojar, security and foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister, Petr Fiala, and there were prominent Czech politicians as well as diplomats, foreign policy experts, journalists, and students in attendance.
China and Russia
What challenges does O'Brien think we are facing? First of all, he feels it is an existential threat from the People's Republic of China. It is not just the political pressure China exerts, or the pressure it puts its own people under that we need to look out for, but we also need to keep a close watch on its military ambitions in the South China Sea and Taiwan. "We are dealing with an old-fashioned, nationalist, imperialist dictator in Russia, one that does not have the same kind of self-control as Xi Jing Ping. He has to go through elections and answer to the National Congress but Putin is free to do as he wishes. And he wants to rebuild the Russian empire. He has been saying so for years now but we have ignored him the whole time. He attacked Georgia and Ukraine, and he deployed units in Moldova and Syria. He even talks about Finland as being part of the Russian family," said Robert O'Brien. We need to take a strong stance against Russia and Putin. But he also spoke of threats posed by Iran, North Korea, or the Jihadists.
And how does O'Brien think the West should react to these threats? "We must not think that the West can deal with these threats by soft force, extending the olive branch and providing aid, trade deals, and such. We must not feel that if we stand behind Israel, Ukraine, or Taiwan, we are provoking the dictators of the world. And that if we do provoke them, they will do things we wish they wouldn't. In actuality, it is weakness, not strength, that incites bad actors in international politics." The western democracies' lack of faith in their own values is what weakened their standing, according to O'Brien, signaling the weakness, division, and deterioration of the West to the dictators and autocrats as well as its resulting inability to react to their forceful actions. "We have failed to deter Putin. For years, we have watched him build massive military forces and listened to him call the Ukrainians nazis, which is pure nonsense. We did not deter the Russians, did not signal clearly what kind of sanctions they might face, nor did we tell them that we will supply the Ukrainians with weaponry," said O'Brien. He sees the key mistakes being Europe's failure to diversify its energy sources, the US not halting Nord Stream 2, and NATO members ignoring the pledge of 2% of GDP going to security.
Left to right Mirek Topolánek, Robert O'Brien, Ivan Langer, Tomáš Pojar.
Robert O'Brien is a lawyer, former American diplomat, and primarily the US national security advisor during Donald Trump's rule (2019-2021), wherein he played a pivotal role in brokering the so-called Abraham Accords. He managed to elevate the cooperation between the US and its allies in the Indo-Pacific region, he was among the most vocal critics of China in Trump's administration, and he helped broker the deal between Kosovo and Serbia (2020).
Previously, he served as the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (2018-2019), during his service, he managed to negotiate the release of 25 American citizens wrongfully detained in foreign countries. He was nominated as the US alternate representative to the UN General Assembly by George W. Bush. He was the co-chairman of the US Department of State's initiative that was in charge of reforming the judicial system in Afghanistan where he educated local judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys.
O'Brien has written a book titled "While America Slept: Restoring American Leadership to a World in Crisis" (2016), in which he subjected the foreign policy of the Obama administration to abject criticism. His name has been mentioned lately in connection with the 2024 US presidential election.