Czechia to employ thousands of Ukrainian arms industry experts to step up weapons production

Prime Minister Fiala's meeting with President Zelensky

In the coming months, Czechia will employ thousands of experts from Ukraine in its arms manufacturing industry, thanks to a deal struck between Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a meeting the pair had in October.

Tomáš Kopečný | Photo: René Volfík,

Deputy Defence Minister Tomáš Kopečný, who has been coordinating the supply of weapons to Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion, told Czech Radio that Czechia simply does not have enough workers with experience in the arms industry, so skilled Ukrainian workers and engineers will be a huge boon to the country.

"Apart from purely ideological objections, I can't see a single argument against this move – it doesn’t take jobs away from Czech people because the people who can do these jobs simply are not here. These are highly specialised fields in which the Ukrainian defence industry has ten years of experience and in which it excels.”

The arrival of the Ukrainian experts should significantly increase Czech production of weapons for Ukraine, and Czechia intends to start mass-producing them next year. The initiative will be financed by Czechia’s NATO partners. Therefore, Tomáš Kopečný says, it won’t cost the state anything.

“On the contrary, it will significantly increase revenues to the state budget. The beauty is that it will not be funded by the Czech crown, it will be backed by foreign investors and the Czech economy and Czech people will be richer from it. And the fact that our allies will be footing the bill is an absolutely incredible, indeed a truly historic opportunity.”

Photo: Flickr,  CC BY-NC 2.0

Compared to the large NATO states, Czech aid to Ukraine is smaller, but according to Tomáš Kopečný, as the first country to start supplying weapons to Ukraine, Czechia inspired big players such as the USA and UK to step up their support and thus fundamentally improved its international standing.

The increased production should also be beneficial to Czechia from a security standpoint, the deputy defence minister argues.

“Strengthening the production capacities of our domestic defence industry means strengthening the security of the Czech Republic. Anyone can become the target of a Russian terrorist attack – that is the strategy that the Russian Federation has been using in Europe for some time. At the time when Russia attacked the munitions factory in Vrbětice, Czechia wasn’t producing anything for Ukraine, so in the end it doesn't really matter whether we are doing anything directly for Ukraine or not.”

Source: Jernej Furman,  Flickr,  CC BY 2.0

However, the move may not necessarily have public support, according to a new survey by the Centre for Public Opinion Research. Only slightly more than two fifths of respondents approve of providing Ukraine with military equipment and less than half agree with efforts to isolate Russia politically and economically. Only 42 percent of the population approve of the government's actions to support Ukraine, which is 16 percentage points down from in the spring, while the number of people disagreeing with the government’s actions has increased by 17 percentage points to 52 percent.

To date, Czech arms exports to Ukraine have amounted to around CZK 40 billion.

Author: Anna Fodor
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