Slovakia Lawmakers Approve Defense Military Treaty With US

Slovakia Lawmakers Approve Defense Military Treaty With US
Thousands of Slovaks rally to protest a defense military treaty between this NATO member and the United States, in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Feb. 8, 2022. (Pavol Zachar/TASR via AP)
The Associated Press

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia—Slovakia’s parliament on Wednesday approved a defense military treaty with the United States.

The Defense Cooperation Agreement passed 79–60 in the 150-seat legislature in a vote split between lawmakers from the four-party ruling coalition and the opposition.

The treaty allows the U.S. military to use two Slovak air force bases—Malacky-Kuchyna and Sliac—for 10 years while Slovakia—a NATO member—will receive $100 million from the United States to modernize them.

The deal was signed by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Slovakia’s defense minister, Jaroslav Nad, on Feb. 3 in Washington. It still needs to be ratified by President Zuzana Caputova, who supports it.

The vote took place amid fears that Russia will invade Ukraine. Moscow has massed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, but insists it has no plans to attack. Slovakia borders Ukraine.

The treaty has been supported by the government of Prime Minister Eduard Heger, who said it will “significantly enhance our security.” But the agreement is fiercely opposed by the opposition, which claims it would compromise the country’s sovereignty, make possible a permanent presence of U.S. troops on Slovak territory and even enable a possible deployment of nuclear weapons in Slovakia.

The Slovak and U.S. governments have rejected those charges.

“Nothing in today’s agreement creates permanent U.S. bases or troop presence in Slovakia, and the agreement fully respects Slovakia’s sovereignty and laws,” Blinken said during Thursday’s signing ceremony at the U.S. State Department.

Thousands rallied against the agreement on Tuesday in front of the parliament building when lawmakers were debating it.

The protest united the Slovak opposition, including the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia and the leftist Smer-Social Democracy of former populist Prime Minister Robert Fico.

The United States has such an agreement with 23 other NATO members, including, Poland, and Hungary, two other countries that neighbor Ukraine on the eastern flank of the alliance.

Any particular deployment of U.S. forces still needs approval by the Slovak government and parliament.