Fiala meets Biden to discuss support for Ukraine

Fiala meets Biden to discuss support for Ukraine
Petr Fiala (left) meets US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office. / bne IntelliNews
By Albin Sybera April 16, 2024

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala met US President Joe Biden at the White House on April 15 as Ukraine's allies continued to pile pressure on the US Congress to stop blocking US aid to Kyiv. 

Biden welcomed Fiala and his delegation for about an hour in what Czech media interpreted as a success for Fiala’s cabinet’s foreign policy and its military backing of Ukraine.

“We discussed support for Ukraine because Czechs know Putin’s ambitions don’t end there,” Biden’s Facebook page stated following the meeting. Biden also stated the meeting was “to celebrate the Czech Republic’s 25th anniversary in Nato and our defence partnership”.

“We need to deal with challenges such as the Russian aggression in Ukraine, terrorism and the complex situation in the Middle East”, Fiala stated following the meeting, which is part of his two-day trip to the US.

In a press statement, the White House praised Czechia for “the recent passage of legislation requiring it to spend at least 2% of its GDP on defence” and also stated that “President Biden welcomed the Czech decision earlier this year to purchase 24 U.S. F-35s, a $4.5bn (€4.2bn) deal that contributes to U.S. jobs, bolsters the Czech Republic’s defence modernisation, and deepens the U.S.-Czech defence relationship".

The statement also reads that the two statesmen “spoke about the U.S.-Czech energy security relationship”, which comes after a one-time favourite of the Czech nuclear enhancement plans, American Westinghouse, was ejected from the ongoing nuclear tender in January.

Biden and Fiala also announced the intent to sign a memorandum “on countering foreign information manipulation that will help defend democratic institutions from foreign disinformation”.  

In an interview that Fiala gave to Czech Television after the meeting at the White House, the Czech PM said: “What I am trying to say here to American friends and I will be trying to say that also tomorrow is that without the cooperation of Europe and the United States and without the active role of the United States the world won’t be safe.”

Fiala's visit comes at the start of a week when the US President is making a renewed push to get the House of Representatives to back the stalled aid bill for Ukraine. Biden has urged Congress to pass the bill passed in the Senate, saying "As the Czech Republic remembers, Russia won't stop at Ukraine". US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson has said a new aid package for US allies could be put to a vote this week.

Czech Radio noted that Biden praised the Czech initiative to purchase ammunition for Ukraine outside the EU. Fiala also highlighted the history of US-Czech ties, which include the role of Woodrow Wilson in the founding of interwar Czechoslovakia in 1918 to Clinton’s 1990s administration on which Czech-born Madeleine Albright served as secretary of state.

Fiala travelled to the US shortly after he was re-elected as chairman of his neoliberal ODS party while facing no opposition at a party summit in Ostrava at the weekend. His victory, as well as the election of legislator Eva Decroix as one of the four vice chairs of the party, is seen as a strengthening of the more moderate and pro-EU strand inside the eurosceptic party.  

ODS was set up in the early 1990s, shortly after the fall of communism in then Czechoslovakia, by free market hawk Vaclav Klaus, who is now a far-right backer of the anti-EU SPD party, and has traditionally been an ally of the US Republican party. ODS also sits in the Eurosceptic The European Conservatives and Reformist party grouping together with Polish radicals from Law and Justice, Spanish Vox and the Italian Brothers of Italy.