Feb 3, 2023
Czech Incoming President Says No ‘Cap’ on Kyiv Weapons Shipments
(Bloomberg) -- The Czech Republic’s incoming president said the only limit to weapons deliveries to Ukraine should be nuclear arms, signaling support for sending fighter jets as he expressed confidence that Ukrainian forces can defeat Russia.
Petr Pavel, a retired top NATO general who takes office March 9, also said President Vladimir Putin’s government isn’t the only one to possess nuclear weapons.
“I believe that we shouldn’t put any cap on equipment,” Pavel told Bloomberg Television in an interview in Prague Friday, responding to a question on sending jets to Kyiv. “The only exception is nuclear weapons and direct involvement of NATO in the conflict.”
After agreeing last month to send battle tanks to Ukraine, the US, UK and European Union member states have drawn a new red line at delivering air power to Ukraine. President Joe Biden this week said the US would not send F-16 warplanes.
The newly elected Czech leader signaled that there should be no such limits.
Pavel secured a convincing victory over billionaire former Prime Minister Andrej Babis on Saturday after a campaign that pledged to return the Czech Republic’s highest office to the European mainstream. For two decades, the office has been occupied by figures who have challenged the country’s Euro-Atlantic orientation.
The 61-year-old president-elect, a newcomer to politics, has vocally denounced the invasion of Ukraine and called for more sanctions against Russia.
Pavel also warned that NATO members’ possession of nuclear weapons should act as a deterrent to any Russian considerations of atomic arms.
“We have nuclear capability as well,” Pavel said. “We don’t want to use it at all, but we are ready if necessary.”
NATO’s top military officer as the chief of the alliance’s Military Committee from 2015 to 2018, Pavel offered his assessment of Ukraine’s capabilities as the military prepares for a Russian offensive in the coming weeks. With assistance from NATO and other allies, Kyiv should be able to push Russian forces out of its territory and reclaim sovereignty, he said.
“Ukraine can defeat Russia on Ukrainian soil,” said Pavel. “That means to push Russian forces out and restore full territorial integrity and full sovereignty of Ukraine.”
The comments mark a shift in orientation for the Czech Republic, which held the six-month rotating EU presidency in the second half of last year. Pavel succeeds Milos Zeman, a polarizing figure who antagonized EU allies with support for Putin — until he invaded Ukraine — and China.
Running as an independent, Pavel pledged to embrace the EU and NATO. Over the past decade, the one-time military-intelligence officer and peace-keeper veteran of the Yugoslav Wars also served as the chief of the General Staff of the Czech military.
(Updates with support for jets, quotes, beginning in first paragraph.)
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