Czech soldiers leave for a new mission in Slovakia. What exactly is a mission?
The name of the mission is eVA – enhanced vigilance activity. So it’s a mission to watch out to the east if anything happens there. Of course, he must be prepared not only to deter the presence of a force element, but also for possible defense. Therefore, units going there are fully equipped with supplies to conduct combat operations.
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We are currently starting as the Czech Republic. In the coming months, however, the integration of foreign elements into this mission will take place in order to supplement the missing capabilities – or improve the existing ones – of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic. So that no one can dream of entering NATO territory and violating its territorial integrity and interests.
Which soldiers does the Czech Republic send there?
In this introductory phase, it is mainly about the capabilities of the Chrudim Airborne Regiment. In the next phases, the planning process is still ongoing, but we are talking more about the mechanized army and its capabilities.
And are you leaving today?
Yes, we are leaving today. The combat part of my task force left Chrudim at eight o’clock in the morning. This is, say, the integration part – for the international business area – today at 10:30 a.m. heading to Slovakia.
A mandate for 650 soldiers has been approved, so many of them are already leaving for Slovakia?
We don’t go out in such large numbers at the beginning, because it’s the initial part to ensure our presence. Light weapons and light equipment will be used in this part, but the deployment of heavier weapons and other vehicles is also preparing in the coming months. Of course, they will also need more staff.
Poland, Germany and the Netherlands also want to participate in the mission. How many and what troops will these countries send?
I wouldn’t want to speculate for those countries. This week, the meeting takes place in Bratislava in the presence of representatives of NATO, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Exactly the skills that will be required from each country are coordinated.
Of course, it will not only be a combat capability, but all these states will also provide experts to the headquarters. Be it logistics, law, finance, military operations or intelligence elements. So that we can be interoperable and synchronized as one complex unit – whether during exercises or possible protection of the Slovak border.
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You will command the entire mission. Is this a new experience for you?
Yes, such a mission is my first, but I have experience abroad in previous years. I have been deployed three times in RS / Decisive Support operations (support resolved) and ISAF/International Security Assistance Force (International Security Assistance Force) in Afghanistan in 2007, 2009 and 2013.
For three years, I worked at the NATO Land Operations Headquarters in Izmir, Turkey, where I specifically planned NATO land operations.
After my return to the Czech Republic, I held positions in the Joint Operations Center as head of the department of foreign operations of the army of the Czech Republic, then as head of foreign operations planning of the RCA. So I have experience in that sense, I would say. However, this remains a challenge, as it is the first time that the Czech Republic not only commands a foreign mission, but also prepares and exhibits it.
What do you think is the biggest challenge or where do you think there will be the most problems?
I see the biggest challenge so far in defining the skills required of each of the other contributing countries. Capabilities must be fully aligned with what the Slovak Republic will need, but also with what we can then operate. That is to say what will have logistical support in Slovakia, and of course the identification of training areas, practice areas, and also the possible defense of the Slovak border.
You mentioned that only part of the soldiers are leaving for Slovakia now. When will the mission be over?
This is the subject of negotiations taking place in Bratislava this week. I think it will be in the coming months – my own estimate is that it should be no later than September. Of course, initial operational capabilities will be defined first – in IOC military terminology (Initial Operational Capabilities). These should be in the summer months, here we can talk about June, for example. Full Operational Capabilities – FOC (Full operational capabilities) – should be fixed by September this year at the latest.
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Will the Czech Republic lead the mission at all times?
We currently have a mandate approved by the country’s constitutional leaders by the middle of next year. Whether or not the Czech Republic remains the leading country, I leave it to them to decide.
Do you already know exactly how many soldiers you will command, or will it even be agreed in Bratislava?
We have to take it in such a way that, for example, a mechanized company in the design of the Czech Republic can mean 100-200 soldiers, maybe even more. In the concept of other countries, these figures can vary considerably. Therefore, this week’s meeting should include how many soldiers will participate in this mission in total. This must be in line with the ability of the Slovak Army to take care of all soldiers. Of course, there are also possible options – tents, container cities and other logistics, which would be taken from the stock of contributing countries.
It is a multinational group. Does this mean that there will be more countries than Czechia?
I am the commander of the contingent and my deputy – because this is a NATO mission, this is not a bilateral agreement between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, nor any of our ad hoc affairs – will be a German soldier with the rank of colonel.
Of course, the staffs, the command and all the coordination will be under the NATO regime – that is not what the Czech Republic will say and everyone must adapt. Everything will be based on negotiation and respect for the legal standards of all contributing countries.
If the war in Ukraine continues to escalate and Russia moves west, will you be on the front line?
This mission is mainly of deterrence. In case enemy troops approach Slovakia’s eastern border, host nation troops will always be on the front line. Of course with the support of our working group.
Did the soldiers have to train in a special way because of this?
I have a very high opinion of Czech soldiers. I think they have been trained for a long time, permanently and don’t need any special training now.
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What is needed is to correctly assemble this contingent after military capabilities – like a puzzle. Having combat elements, having intelligence elements and also elements like electronic combat, or a few others. Everything has to go hand in hand with the logistics and the requirements of the host country, because we are always invited to the Slovak Republic.
Will you also be at the negotiations in Bratislava on the final form of the mission?
A team from the General Staff of the Army of the Czech Republic was sent to this meeting. I will read their provisional results and conclusions in the coming days.
Is Moscow already reacting to this new emerging mission in Slovakia? After all, you are approaching Russia’s borders and Russia is often sensitive to such moves.
I do not think that the fact that our mission is now being built in Slovakia would constitute a great rapprochement with Russian territory. NATO has long had similar programs in the Baltic republics or in Poland, and the Baltic republics have a direct border with Russia.
So I don’t think we’re getting closer today. And I don’t know of any clues from the Russian side. Czechia has experience of such similar missions since 2018, when we made a significant contribution to Lithuania and Latvia.
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