Czechia voices support for Ukraine ahead of NATO summit

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference ahead of the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Monday, July 10, 2023

The eyes of the world are on Vilnius where NATO is debating Ukraine’s increasingly pressing demands to be allowed to come under NATO’s protective umbrella and new defense plans for the alliance. Czechia has made it clear that it supports membership for Ukraine when the war ends and has pledged to continue providing military and humanitarian aid.

The leaders of NATO’s 31 member states have congregated in Vilnius for what looks set to be one of the most difficult summits in the alliance’s history – responding to the new security challenges stemming from the war in Ukraine and that country’s appeal to be allowed to join the alliance as soon as possible.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who toured a string of European countries to drum up support for his demands ahead of the summit, wants a clear invitation in Vilnius for his country to join the alliance once the war is over and security guarantees until that time.

Volodymyr Zelensky | Photo: Vít Šimánek,  ČTK

Whether the support Ukraine has among member states will stretch far enough to cover those demands is uncertain since NATO members are divided over how much the alliance can promise without risking an open military conflict with Russia.

Ahead of the summit, President Petr Pavel stressed that Ukraine needs to hear that Europe will be ready to embrace it in Western structures when the war is over.

“We need to say loud and clear that it is in the interest of the Czech Republic that Ukraine should be invited to start accession talks with NATO as soon as this war is over. It is in the interest of our own security, regional stability but also economic prosperity. In Vilnius we will talk about support for Ukraine to the tune of 500 million euros. Czechia is ready to contribute 5 million euros to this effort. We also welcome the creation of a NATO-Ukraine council, which will hold its first session in Vilnius. This is a platform where Ukraine will sit at the table with NATO members as an equal and the communication will take place on a completely different level.”

Like other NATO members who have experienced Russian oppression, Czechia feels it is duty bound to help Ukraine in its quest for something that the Czech Republic itself sought not so long ago – freedom, security guarantees and the right to say where it belongs.

While Czech officials have stressed there can be no question of accepting Ukraine in NATO until the war is over, Prague is likely to support whatever security guarantees the alliance can provide in the meantime.  President Biden said on Monday the US was willing to offer Ukraine the same security guarantees as Israel, so as to enable it to defend itself against the Russian aggression.

Czechia, which has been helping Ukraine since day one and was the first country to send tanks to Ukraine shortly after the war started, has already made it clear that it will continue providing military and humanitarian assistance.

During President Zelensky’s visit to Prague last week the two sides signed a memorandum on cooperation in developing, repairing and modernizing weapons and the Czech prime minister announced that Czechia would give Ukraine more military helicopters, more ammunition, provide simulators and help train fighter jet pilots.

And despite Czechia’s present problems with public finances, the government has pledged to meet the requirement for the country to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense as of 2024.

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