Czech presidential candidate Andrej Babiš has accused the mainstream media of twisting his words to suggest the former Czech prime minister would not honor the country’s NATO obligations and send troops to defend Poland or the Baltic nations should they be attacked.
During a televised debate on Sunday evening, Babiš was asked whether the Czech Republic would send soldiers into an open conflict in the event of an attack on Poland or the Baltic states, to which he replied, “Where do you mean? To war? Certainly not.”
When pressed on the matter, the presidential candidate asked, “And why should we have an open conflict? I want peace.”
Babiš was asked if he would honor NATO’s principle of collective defense if he was the country’s commander-in-chief, to which he replied, “I am not the commander-in-chief. Yes, if I was.”
However, his remarks appeared contradictory, and later in the debate he told viewers, “I want peace. I do not want war, and I would not send our children and our women’s children to war under any circumstances.”
The comments were reported across various news outlets and sparked anger in Poland and the Baltics. However, Babiš claimed on Monday that his words had not been contextualized, saying he was speaking from a viewpoint that conflict involving a NATO member was unthinkable.
“I fundamentally reject the attempt to distort my statements that were made during yesterday’s debate,” Babiš tweeted on Monday. “I have never questioned Article 5, i.e., the collective defense of NATO. I just didn’t want to even imagine that World War 3 could happen. That is why politicians must strive for peace and prevent war.
“It was clear from the context of the debate,” Babiš said, adding he had written to Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki regarding the matter, and has asked Czech President Zeman to speak with Polish President Duda during a planned meeting in Náchod on Tuesday.
Babiš is involved in a run-off for the Czech presidency, with voters heading to the polls to choose between the former prime minister and retired NATO General Petr Pavel on Jan. 27-28.
The latest polling shows Pavel ahead at 58 percent and Babiš’ at 42 percent with the 9 percent of undecided voters removed.