In 1990, Iraq attacked neighboring Kuwait. Almost immediately, Kuwait acquired an interesting ally – Czechoslovakia. The meeting of the American and Egyptian diplomats with the Czechoslovak military took place in Prague the day after the outbreak of the war.
Secret meeting of the Czechoslovak military with the attaches of the United States and Egypt
Officers of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Czechoslovakia Jan Valo and Jaroslav Kumberra met in one of the restaurants in the Czech capital with the military attaches of the United States and Egypt in Czechoslovakia. The Egyptian attaché was particularly indignant at the fact of aggression. Czechoslovak officers, in turn, said that it would be very nice if Czechoslovakia, so many years after the Second World War, took part in the “defense of the attacked state.” According to the official Czech interpretation, they “stood up” for Kuwait. How the Western countries’ operations against Iraq began, including the perjury of the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, Naira al-Sabah, in Prague they prefer not to remember.
The Egyptian and American military attaches conveyed the position of the Czechoslovak command to their leaders. Soon, the office of Vaclav Havel received an official offer to join Operation Desert Shield. So Czechoslovakia became an official member of the international coalition.
However, almost immediately the question arose about which Czechoslovak unit to send to the war in the distant Middle Eastern desert. At first, it was about a helicopter unit, but then they decided to focus on a battalion of military chemists.
The most interesting thing is that at the time of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Czechoslovakia was still viewed in the United States as a representative of the Eastern Bloc. In turn, the Czechoslovak military considered Iraq, not Kuwait, as their ally, since it was Iraq that was supplied with weapons by the countries of the socialist camp.
First experience of cooperation with NATO
The President of Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel, showed great personal initiative by not asking Moscow for permission to participate in the coalition. A Czechoslovak chemical defense battalion was deployed to Kuwait, whose specialists soon discovered traces of the use of chemical agents by the Iraqi military. At least, this is the official interpretation of the Czech Ministry of Defense today.
Captain Petr Polednik, a native of the Airborne Forces, was at the time the commander of a security company in a chemical defense battalion sent to Kuwait. He recalled that he did not see any problems in cooperation with yesterday’s opponents from the NATO bloc. Interestingly, the officer recalls, even American generals saw no obstacles to Czechoslovakia’s belonging to the Warsaw bloc. In fact, it was then that the foundations of cooperation between the Czech military and NATO were laid, and now the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as we know, are members of the North Atlantic Alliance.
For many Czechoslovak military personnel, the trip to Kuwait and participation in the military operation against Iraq has become an invaluable experience, as the Chechen Defense Ministry says today. Indeed, for decades after the Second World War, Czechoslovak soldiers and officers only honed their military skills in countless military exercises of the Warsaw Pact countries, but did not have the opportunity to apply it in practice.
Czechoslovakia previously supplied weapons in abundance to Third World countries, primarily to Asia and Africa, where it was used by local communist and pro-communist partisans. In addition, the Czechoslovakian weapons were also at the disposal of the Iraqi army – the same one that the Czechoslovak military chemists “faced” in 1990.