Prague, July 12 (CTK) – The Czech Chamber of Deputies approved the mission of up to 290 soldiers in NATO’s multinational Enhanced Forward Presence unit in the Baltics, within which they are to serve in Lithuania and Latvia next year and in January 2019, on Wednesday.
The decision is yet to be approved by the Senate. It will debate it in the second half of July.
The motion gained the votes of 119 out of the 165 deputies present, while 101 were needed in the 200-member lower house.
It was rejected by 34 deputies, primarily Communists (KSCM).
Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD) said the mission would be a major contribution of the Czech Republic to NATO.
The strengthening of NATO’s eastern wing is one of NATO’s key priorities, he added.
Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) said this was a sign of solidarity and readiness to fulfil the principle of collective defence.
“I cannot imagine the Czech Republic hesitating,” Stropnicky said.
Alexander Cerny (KSCM) said the mission was bizarre.
TOP 09 leader Miroslav Kalousek said the Communists were Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fifth column.
The mission is also opposed by Tomio Okamura, leader of the minor opposition Freedom and Direct Democracy.
He said the Baltic countries should be helped to build their own armed forces.
“NATO’s expeditionary forces here will step up tension in relation to Russia,” he said, warning of a rising danger of war.
The Czech troops are to be in the Baltics within NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence with which it reacts to the Russian threat.
“This is an adequate reaction to the changed security environment provoked by Russia’s aggressive steps towards Ukraine,” the report on the proposal said.
In each of the countries, over 1,200 allied troops will be deployed.
In Lithuania, Czech troops served within a joint exercise of the Visegrad Four (the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia) and the Baltic countries early this year already.
The Czech Republic has repeatedly sent its aircraft to air policing over the Baltics. The Czech fighters may rejoin it in 2019.
Source: Prague Daily Monitor.