An Sunday evening, halfway between the first and second ballots for the Czech president, one of the few direct meetings between the remaining candidates took place. These are Petr Pavel, a former chief of staff and NATO general, and Andrei Babis, founder of the multi-billion dollar Agrofert group, who was prime minister until 2021. Babiš used his appearance on public television in front of an audience of millions for a bang that was heard abroad. He made it clear that as president he would not send Czech soldiers to Poland or the Baltic states if they were attacked by Russia.
An indignant echo was promptly heard from the respective countries. Babiš currently holds no state office, but as head of the ANO party, he is the opposition leader in parliament. And he corrected himself that same evening: He stands by the duty to provide assistance under Article 5 of the NATO treaty, but did not answer a hypothetical question in the debate and did not want to imagine a third world war. The moderator wanted to know whether the Czech Republic should send its soldiers into a conflict if Poland or the Baltic States (all NATO members) were attacked. Babiš replied: “No, definitely not. I want peace, I don’t want war.”