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General Pavel supports sending Czech soldiers to Baltics

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Prague, May 20 (CTK) – It would be an extremely harmful compromise not to send Czech soldiers to the Baltics because of the Communists’ demand in exchange for their toleration of the new government, General Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, said in a debate on Czech TV on Sunday.

He hinted at the Communist demanding that the reinforcement of the Czech participation in foreign missions be deleted from the government policy statement, otherwise they would not support the nascent minority government of ANO and the Social Democrats (CSSD) in a confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies .

Pavel also said in the Questions of Vaclav Moravec discussion programme that the NATO allies may perceive the Czech Republic not fulfilling the promise to increase its military budget as the violation of commitments.

The previous coalition government of Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) promised that the Czech Republic would spend 1.4 percent of GDP on defence by 2020. This deadline was postponed until 2021 in the policy statement of the possible ANO-CSSD government. Besides, the document does not mention a rise of the military expenditure to 2 percent of GDP by 2024, in harmony with the Czech Republic’s commitments towards NATO.

Pavel admitted that the allies might view the discussions about lowering the military spendings as violations of NATO commitments.

However, most NATO members spend less than 2 percent of GDP on defence, which they pledged. Mainly the U.S. representatives criticise this as the U.S. defence spendings considerably exceed 3 percent of GDP.

The defence funding will be debated at the upcoming NATO summit, Pavel said. It is fully apparent that American President Donald Trump puts a great emphasis on how the countries are fulfilling their commitments in tis respect, Pavel noted.

The United States’s warm stance on the particular countries would depend on this, he added.

The United States’ relations to the countries that do not meet their commitment and above all will not be able to submit concrete plans in this area are likely to cool down. This will affect other spheres as well, Pavel said.

He also warned of not deploying the promised Czech contingent to the Baltics.

The government policy statement of the ANO and the CSSD counts with with the Baltic air policing along with the reinforcement of the Czech presence in the military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the Communists, on whose support the new cabinet would depend, oppose this.

Former U.N. General Assembly president and ex-foreign minister Jan Kavan (CSSD) and the director of International Relations Institute in Prague, Petr Kratochvil, agreed that the Communists were primarily against the Czech participation within NATO’s enhanced forward presence mission in the Baltic area that is aimed against Russia.

Kavan said he would consider not sending Czech soldiers to the Baltic countries acceptable if this led to the formation of a stable government

Pavel, for his part, called this an extremely harmful compromise. “This would harm our relations not only with the Baltics and NATO’s Eastern flank, but this would be perceived by the other partners who contribute to the NATO’s enhanced forward presence as the lack of solidarity with and loyalty to the Alliance,” Pavel said.

In an interview with the public Czech Radio, Pavel also criticised President Milos Zeman for quoting from the intelligence services’ reports in the media in connection with the Novichok case.

Zeman said, referring to the alleged information from the military intelligence service, that the Novichok nerve agent, which was used to poison Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain, was really produced and tested in the Czech Republic in a small amount.

Pavel said this approach to a certain extent harmed the Czech Republic’s reputation as a trustworthy partner.

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