Vienna - The Czech Republic does not need any increase of NATO military presence in Europe, said Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka during his visit to Austria.
The premier reacted to a statement by US President Barack Obama who said in Warsaw that the USA would boost its military presence in Europe in response to the ongoing Ukraine crisis. NATO's reaction to Obama's statement was “generally positive,” said Czech ambassador to NATO Jiri Sedivy.
Sobotka, the chairman of the senior government Social Democrats (CSSD), admitted that Poland and the Baltic states have asked for a boost in Western military presence in the region, but said that the security situation of the Czech Republic does not require such an increase. “The Czech Republic is not and will not be among countries calling for an increased military presence of NATO troops in Europe.”
Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky (TOP 09) said that the premier's statement was very sensitive and had to be understood in the context in which it was said. He added that the Czech Republic is currently talking to its partners about taking part in a joint air force exercise with Poland and the USA.
The premier's words were described as totally unacceptable and irresponsible by junior government Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) chairman Pavel Belobradek, who added that Sobotka's statement can threaten the Czech Republic's relations with Poland, the Baltic states, and other NATO allies.
“Unlike Premier Sobotka, I believe that it is desirable to boost the military presence of NATO troops in Europe,” said right-wing opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) chairman Petr Fiala in a statement.
The planned boost in military presence is merely symbolic, said Czech President Milos Zeman. “It amounts to a few hundreds of paratroopers. I don't believe it will increase tensions. It is a logical consequence of the annexation of Crimea, of the territorial expansion of the Russian Federation,” said Zeman.
Sobotka's words threaten Czech security, especially in the light of increasing activities of Russian intelligence services in the Czech Republic, Poland, and the Baltic states, wrote Aktualne.cz columnist Martin Fendrych.
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