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Czech army wants to take part in NATO’s reinforcement of Baltics

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Niepolomice/Prague, Feb 2 (CTK) – The Czech Republic would like to participate in the reinforcing of the Eastern flank of NATO as of next year, either in Estonia or Lithuania, the Czech Defence Ministry writes about a meeting of defence ministers from the Visegrad Group (V4) countries held on Thursday.

“As of 2018, the Czech Republic would like to take part in an allied battlegroup within the reinforced military presence, either under the Canadian command in Estonia or under the German command in Lithuania,” Stropnicky told his Hungarian, Polish and Slovak counterparts in Niepolomice.

The Czech military offered to contribute to NATO’s spearhead force with a battalion combat group in 2020 when Poland will be leading this force.

The Czech Republic wants to support the very high readiness joint task force as much as possible, the ministry writes.

The V4 defence ministers talked about NATO’s reinforced military presence on its Eastern flank, the ministry writes on its website.

On January 11, Czech troops launched the Training Bridge 2017 exercise in Lithuania, within which Czech, Slovak, Polish and Hungarian units will gradually take their turns in the Baltics. This exercise is organised in reaction to the Baltic concerns about Russia. The Czech troops will stay in Lithuania until March.

Stropnicky said Czech soldiers may also train along with U.S. troops deployed in Europe within exercises that will take place in V4 countries.

In 2016, NATO decided to send multinational battalions led by U.S., British, Canadian and German troops to Poland and the Baltics due to the concerns about Russia’s territorial ambitions after its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and support to pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. The Czech military has not taken part in this action so far.

In January, U.S. troops arrived in Poland.

The V4 defence ministries agreed on the need to reform the EU battlegroups in order to improve their readiness, training and support, the ministry writes.

The V4 countries formed their joint battlegroup one year ago. They are to establish another one in 2019. Czech helicopters, doctors, bomb experts and military police might be part of the group.

The V4 defence ministers discussed joint action in NATO and the EU and the new U.S. administration.

Stropnicky said the fact that General James Mattis is the new U.S. Defense Secretary brings hope that the U.S. policy within NATO might remain unchanged. The forthcoming NATO summit in Brussels will be of key importance in this respect, he added.

All are waiting whether Mattis will confirm the new course of U.S. defence policy outlined by new President Donald Trump, Stropnicky said.

Trump urged European members of NATO to meet the promise to give 2 percent of GDP on defence spending. Only a few countries are meeting the pledge.

The V4 ministers discussed the demand for an increase in military budgets.

Stropnicky said nobody has challenged this pledge.

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