New Czech leader urges 'no limits' on aid to Ukraine
published : 2 Feb 2023 at 23:45
PRAGUE - Czech president-elect Petr Pavel, a former NATO general, said Thursday there should be "no limits" on military aid to war-ravaged Ukraine, urging allies to show more courage.
Pavel, who led the NATO military committee from 2015-2018, won his country's presidential ballot over the weekend and will be sworn in next month.
In an interview with AFP, the 61-year-old said the West should provide Ukraine with all types of weapons except nuclear arms as it battles Russia's invasion.
"When it comes to conventional weapons, I really can see no reason for any limits," Pavel said.
"Ukraine cannot fight a tough opponent like this without armoured technologies, unmanned aerial vehicles, artillery and longer-range rockets, but maybe also supersonic aircraft," he added.
Western allies have been providing Ukraine with substantial military aid since the full-scale invasion began in February 2022.
But Pavel said more courage was needed as "some countries have a bit of a reserved stance" on shipping over modern weapons.
"If we take a single standpoint, it gives us the best chance of success. We should act in unity on these issues," he told AFP
- 'All means' -
"We should provide Ukraine with all means to help it push the Russian army out," he said.
A day after the election, Pavel spoke on the phone with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky to assure him of the Czech Republic's support.
He also said he was planning to visit Ukraine with his Slovak counterpart Zuzana Caputova in the spring.
"It is important to show continuing support to Ukraine, highlight all the good things and the will to continue our initiative. I think that's what Ukraine needs to hear," said Pavel.
The Czech Republic, an EU and NATO member of 10.5 million people, has so far provided Ukraine with military aid worth $217 million, the defence ministry told AFP.
Pavel also endorsed Ukraine's bid to join the EU and NATO once the war ends.
"If we perceive NATO and the EU as a zone of stability, cooperation, good relations, then we should allow another large European country to join," he said.
"Not only does it deserve to join, but we will also benefit from this, and so will Russia once it's able to re-establish normal relations with the West."
- 'Political will' -
He said Ukraine's membership of NATO was only "a matter of political will".
"In terms of agreement on values, long-term strategic interests, technological inter-operability between NATO and Ukraine's army, Ukraine has already met the conditions."
He also noted that Ukraine had military know-how to bring to the table.
"Considering the long-dragging conflict and the last phase of this really hot war, Ukraine and its army will be the most experienced, best prepared army in Europe," Pavel said.
He said the war had to end with Russia's retreat from Ukraine, peace talks, the reconstruction of Ukraine and the investigation of war crimes.
"We will have to lead Russia there, not only by continuing our support for Ukraine but also by being very strict in implementing sanctions against Russia," Pavel said.
"This is the only way to make Russia realise it has acted counter to norms, and that in the civilised world of the 21st century even a large country like Russia cannot ignore the global community's standards."