Warsaw - Czech President Milos Zeman indicated today that he considers Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka´s (Social Democrats, CSSD) statement that the country is not calling for reinforcing U.S. military presence in Europe a mistake, but said Sobotka has still to learn foreign policy.
Prezident Miloš Zeman se 2. června zúčastnil oslav dvaceti let Nejvyššího státního zastupitelství v Kroměříži. ČTK Glück Dalibor
Sobotka said on Tuesday the Czech Republic does not need U.S. reinforced presence in Europe with regard for the current security situation, in reaction to President Barack Obama´s announcement that his country will send more troops to Europe.
Zeman said he considers the stronger U.S. involvement rather symbolic and that he does not mind it.
"I would be indulgent towards the prime minister. He has never dealt with foreign policy and that is why he is still learning it. And everyone knows that he who is learning, is making mistakes," Zeman told Czech journalists in Warsaw.
Zeman is taking part in the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the first partially free election that resulted in the fall of communism in Poland.
Zeman said he considers the heralded reinforcement of U.S. presence in Europe "basically symbolic - it will be mainly hundreds of paratroops - and a symbolic reinforcement is nothing that I would mind," Zeman said.
Obama said in Warsaw yesterday the United States wants to moderate the fears of its NATO allies with the reinforcement of its military presence in Europe after Russians took disquieting steps against Ukraine.
Sobotka said some European countries, including Poland or the Baltic countries, are turning to NATO with the request to raise military presence on the continent, but added that the Czech Republic does not need anything like this.
"I think that such presence only has some logic depending on the security situation," he said.
"The Czech Republic is not and will not be among the countries calling for an increased presence of NATO troops in Europe," Sobotka said.
He said he believes that an increase in the number of NATO units in Europe may not be urgent for a number of years to come.
This depends on the development of the security situation, Sobotka said.
The Czech Republic spends slightly over 1 percent of GDP on defence annually, while it pledged to provide minimally 2 percent when it entered NATO in 1999. The NATO leadership, including Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has repeatedly criticised Prague for low spending on the military.