Czechia to ditch Russian technology and conclude US treaty to modernize its defenses

Czech Republic's Defense Minister Jana Cernochova, left, speaks during a meeting with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon, Thursday, April 21, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
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Czechia wants to quickly shake off its dependence on Russian military technology and modernize using U.S. products, Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová announced after a meeting in the Pentagon with her U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin.

Černochová revealed that the two countries would soon conclude a bilateral defense cooperation agreement which could see Czechia purchase new fighter jets and tanks from the United States, in addition to its current order for a new fleet of helicopters.

It was the first direct meeting of both countries at the ministerial level since the beginning of the current phase of the Russian war in Ukraine.

Austin welcomed the Czech visitors by heaping praise on the country for being one of the leaders in defense and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and thanked the Czech Republic for its participation in the new NATO battle group in Slovakia. He also confirmed that the current U.S. administration is interested in quickly concluding an agreement with the Czech Republic on defense cooperation.

“We have confirmed the intent and we will now discuss the specific provisions of that agreement,” said Černochová after the talks. “Here, my colleagues and the American side have communicated that our treaty should be more general, that there should be no specific issues such as troop numbers or specific points, as has been the case with other treaties in neighboring countries.”

No American base for now

Černochová also outlined the Czech efforts to quickly shake off its dependence on the Russian arms industry and the will to continue the modernization of the Czech army in cooperation with the Americans.

The U.S. will deliver 12 military helicopters to Czechia next year, and Černochová would welcome up to 30. She also talked to the Americans about the Czech need for new tanks and fighter jets, hinting that an order for such vehicles could be made further down the line. The Czech defense minister expressed her hope that the very active Czech assistance to Ukraine will help it jump the current line of congested production caused by the war.

As a part of debates on a new NATO strategy, talks about the possibility of new American bases in Eastern Europe have been ongoing, even in Washington itself. Civic Democrat (ODS) politicians, including Prime Minister Petr Fiala, have talked about a base in the Czech Republic as their wish, which is not currently on the table.

Černochová did not bring up such a proposal, and it is not a part of the agreement. She has promised that the Czech Republic would reach its commitment to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense by 2025.

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