PRAGUE — The Czech Parliament gave its expected approval Wednesday to a defense treaty signed with the United States in May that would deepen military cooperation and make it easier to deploy U.S. troops on Czech territory.
The lower house of Parliament voted 115-18 in favor of the Defense Cooperation Agreement. The treaty, endorsed by the Czech Senate last week, goes next to President Petr Pavel for his expected approval.
The document would set a legal framework for possible deployment of U.S. troops in the country at a time of Russian aggression against Ukraine.
"We can't do without a strong alliance with other democratic countries in this situation," Czech Defense Minister Cernochova told lawmakers in the lower house. She said "the deal is absolutely in our national interest."
Cernochova signed the treaty together with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Washington D.C. on May 23. The U.S. has such agreements with 24 other NATO members, including Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria that form the eastern flank of the alliance.
The lawmakers of the five-party ruling coalition were joined by most of their colleagues from the opposition ANO (YES) movement led by former populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis in supporting the treaty.
It was opposed by the major anti-migrant populist Freedom and Direct Democracy party, which claims the pact compromises the country's sovereignty and makes possible a permanent presence of U.S. troops on Czech territory.
But any particular deployment of U.S. forces will still need approval by the Czech government and Parliament.