Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said that former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton doesn’t understand basic math after Babiš was mentioned in Bolton’s new book about President Donald Trump.
Babiš is mentioned in one section of the new book, with Bolton criticizing Babiš’ statement at the 2018 NATO summit in July of that year. According to Bolton, the Czech prime minister was the author of “the most clumsy comment” at the summit.
According to Babiš, Bolton took his statement about defense spending out of context. The Czech prime minister also noted that he already understood why Trump fired the security advisor from his team as he did not understand a simple math equation.
“All one had to do was a bit of thinking, it is a simple equation. Along with President Trump, other European leaders understood it at the NATO summit. I logically argued that the GDP percentage spent on armament does not really matter that much as the absolute amount of money spent on defense is more important. If your GDP grows, so does the absolute sum to be spent on armament, but if the GDP falls in a year and our defense spending is preserved, then the percentage of defense spending logically increases,” explained Babiš.
Bolton claimed that Babiš said that it is difficult for Czechia to meet its defense spending commitment because the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) was growing too fast.
Defense spending was the main topic of the NATO summit two years ago. At the time, Trump repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that most NATO countries contribute less than two percent of their GDP, which is a 2024 target agreed to in 2014.
At the beginning of the second day of the 2018 summit, Trump unexpectedly demanded NATO countries increase their defense budgets accordingly by the beginning of 2019, after which the leaders in Brussels launched a special meeting solely on this topic.
“The most clumsy comment came from the Czech prime minister, who said that they are doing their best to reach the agreed two percent by 2024, but that their GDP is growing so fast that he is not sure whether defense spending could keep up. Basically, he said that they grow rich too fast to be able to defend themselves adequately,” writes Bolton in his book titled ‘The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir’.
Although the former President’s advisor finds Babiš’s argument stupid, according to Bolton, Trump accepted the reasoning.
“Trump eagerly embraced that and said that he had a similar, in fact much bigger problem due to the US economic growth,” claims Bolton.
Babiš believes that Bolton misrepresented his comments.
“The words in the book are taken out of context, and now I understand quite well why President Trump fired Mr. Bolton from his team of advisors when he was unable to understand such a simple thing,” he concluded.
Even before the summit in 2018, the Czech government announced that it plans to increase defense spending to the agreed share of GDP by 2024, and Babiš repeated this intention after negotiations with NATO leaders.
At the same time, he emphasized the growth of Czechia’s defense spending between 2013 to 2019, which amounted to almost 25 billion korunas (€936.6 million). However, last year, the defense budget made up only 1.2 percent of GDP.
According to NATO estimates, in 2019, only nine countries out of 29 members reached the agreed two percent of GDP or more. Besides the United States, Poland, the UK, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Baltic States all met their two percent commitment.