Estonian foreign minister: Mr Babiš should remember Czech history

Urmas Reinsalu in Brussels,
Urmas Reinsalu in Brussels, Source: European Council.

Czech presidential hopeful Andrej Babiš should remember his country's history and not let domestic politics interfere with security policy, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu on Monday, in response to Babiš' comments he would not send troops to Estonia if the country was attacked.

Speaking in a TV debate on Sunday night, the former Czech prime minister (2017-2021) said, if elected, he would not send forces to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia if they were attacked in the future.

Czechia, alongside the Baltic states, is a NATO member. Not acting would break the alliance's Article 5 collective defense agreement.

Ministers from the three countries separately answered reporters' questions about the comments before the EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

Reinsalu said: "I think, in the current situation, it is the worst example of letting the domestic political situation - the presidential elections - intervene in the basic issue of security and foreign policy."

He also highlighted security decisions Babiš made as prime minister which run counter to his comments.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in Tallinn. Source: Office of the Prime Minister.

"And well, I [remember] under Mr. Babiš, troops were sent to our region, also Czech fighter [jets] to our region for the [NATO] air policing [unit]," he told reported.

"So, I will just respond that Mr. Babiš should be aware that Estonia will send its troops if the Czech Republic is in crisis, and secondly, Mr. Babiš should also remember history, including '68 [the Prague Spring] and '39 [the German invasion of Czechoslovakia]."

Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgar Rinkevics raised similar points.

He said, even given the domestic political situation and the election, the comments were "going a bit too far".

"I am a politician myself, I know what political campaigns are. What kind of statements hopefuls are making," the minister said.

Czech soldiers were stationed in Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia last summer. NATO's Eastern Flank (June 2022). Source: NATO

"But I just want to remind [you], that it was the government led by Prime Minister Babiš who decided on support for the Baltic states and Poland. Actually, we had the Czech troops in Latvia at some point. The Czech Air Force was patrolling Baltic airspace.

"So from that point of view, I do believe the Czech Republic, if Article 5 is going to be activated, the Czech Republic will fulfill all the obligations and duties. And as far as I know, it is not only the president who decides, it is the government and the parliament that decides."

Lithuania's Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis said: "I would say only one thing to the Czech people, to our good friends in Czechia, that, if ever, Czech freedom, sovereignty or territory integrity would be challenged by an outside force, Lithuanians would stand shoulder to shoulder with the Czech people."

On Monday, Babiš backtracked saying he would respect NATO's mutual defense commitments, Al Jazeera reported.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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