Defence minister downplays NATO convoy protests
Czech Minister of Defence Martin Stropnický has downplayed criticism of a NATO military convoy set to traverse Czech territory on Sunday. The convoy is designed as a show of force on the military alliance’s eastern flank, but has met with opposition from some Czechs, sensitive to the idea of any foreign troops on their soil.
Major General František Malenínský described the official plans: “Each convoy will be comprised of around 40 vehicles. We also decided to further break up the convoys into three sub-convoys. There will be a thirty minute interval between the passage of each, enabling us to ascertain that no problems exist in terms of traffic.”
Yet the presence of such a visible display of foreign troops has also aroused opposition from certain quarters, most vocal of which are the Czech communist party.
According to Czech Television, last year, 131 similar convoys traversed Czech territory without controversy. Speaking to the station, Czech defence minister Martin Stropnický downplayed Czech objections to the military manoeuvre, formally part of operation Atlantic Resolve: “News stories which are controversial and juicy will tend to get more coverage. And so I would not over-estimate the strength of the critical voices. Yes, they are loud and skilled in gaining attention. But in one paper I read a poll saying that 80 percent of Czechs have no problems with the convoy, 16 percent are against and the rest have no opinion.”
Lauren Lybbert, an American logistics officer, spoke to Czech Television in Lithuania: “This is definitely the biggest operation I’ve been a part of. It’s a great way to test our operational reach, see what we can do, and then work with our NATO partners.”