Czech defence minister visits Washington to seek closer defence cooperation with US

Lloyd Austin, Jana Černochová

Czech Defence Minister Jana Černochová is currently visiting the United States in order to discuss closer defence ties and the speedy purchase of new military equipment. At a meeting with Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in Washington D.C. on Thursday both sides expressed their interest in signing a mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement.

The Czech defence minister met with her US counterpart after arriving in Washigton D.C. on Thursday. Defence Secretary Austin welcomed her by crediting the country’s response to the threat on NATO’s eastern flank over the past two months.

“Madam Minister, I commend the Czech Republic for your whole-of-government approach to providing security assistance and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

“I also applaud everything that you have done to enhance deterrence on NATO’s eastern flank, especially serving as a framework nation in our new NATO battlegroup in Slovakia.”

The two parties then discussed closer cooperation on a multitude of projects. Ms Černochová expressed her country’s wish to sign a Defence Cooperation Agreement with the United States.

Speaking to Czech Television after the meeting, she said that this request was met with a positive response.

“I received personal assurances from Defence Secretary Austin that he will make sure that the Czech Republic’s [military] modernisation plans will be seen as one of the United States’ priorities.”

Lloyd Austin,  Jana Černochová | Photo: U. S. Secretary of Defense/Flickr

The Czech side is especially interested in securing purchases of US military helicopters, although other equipment, such as F-35 fighter jets, may also be on the table.

A contract for the purchase of four Viper and eight Venom helicopters to replace the Czech Republic’s Soviet-era MI-35s had already been signed by Černochová’s predecessor, Lubomír Metnar, in 2019. However, the Czech side hopes to acquire even more helicopters in the coming years. Associated pilot and personnel training, as well as the long-term delivery of spare parts, mean that this would likely be a decade’s long deal.

Unconfirmed rumours also suggest that, if the US helicopter deliveries could be sped up, the Czech Army’s Soviet-era gunships could be sent to Ukraine.

Furthermore, Ms Černochová signalled that the Czech side would be interested in signing a 10-year-long reciprocal Defence Procurement Agreement that would enable the Czech defence industry to participate in U.S. military procurement programs. Currently, Czech defence manufacturers are blocked from taking part in US Army tenders by legislation.

Finally, the Czech defence minister also reaffirmed her country’s commitment to spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defence by 2025. She told Czech Television that this target could be reached sooner if the necessary equipment will become available for purchase. She also invited Defence Secretary Austin to visit Prague.

Jana Černochová will be staying in the United States until Monday, when she will return to the Czech Republic.