How Slovakia ratified the defense cooperation agreement with the U.S. 

How Slovakia ratified the defense cooperation agreement with the U.S.
Photo: AFP

Citizens of Slovakia will long remember the situation in the country in the first half of February 2022, namely the events that took place in connection with the adoption of a specific document related to cooperation in the field of defense and external security. After Slovakia joined NATO in 2004, the adoption of documents of this kind was a common thing, and for a long time no one except specialists and government officials paid much attention to the process. A text was prepared, signed, approved, ratified, published in the appropriate state bulletin, given three lines in newspapers in the «Events of the Day» column, and the job was done. But today, in an era of hybrid threats and active events conducted according to scenarios laid out in advance, things are proceeding quite differently.

An agreement between Slovakia and the U.S. in defense is one such example. A few years ago, Slovakia purchased 14 F-16 fighters from the U.S. for its Air Force. To use them, they needed to agree with the U.S. on the mode of cooperation with American specialists in Slovakia where the fighters were located, specifically on two military airfields. Until now, Slovakia has not had a bilateral defense agreement with the United States, although 23 NATO member states have concluded such agreements on military-technical cooperation with the U.S.

The agreement should have been accepted earlier, immediately after the purchase of American fighters and still under the previous government, headed first by Robert Fico and then by Peter Pellegrini. However, the government’s pro-Russian Slovak National Party (SNP), which oversaw the defense ministry, managed at the time to block the agreement process. The document was submitted for approval by the government, but at the request of the SNP it was removed from the agenda before the cabinet meeting and put on the back burner.

SNP leader Andrej Danko, as Speaker of Parliament from 2016 to 2020, often visited Moscow, where he spoke in the State Duma about the centuries-old Slavic brotherhood and indestructible Slovak-Russian friendship, criticized the policy of Western sanctions against the Kremlin for its aggression towards Ukraine, making the sign of the cross and bowing down before the shocked Russian «deputies,» and, upon his return to Slovakia, spread Russian narratives about the peaceful nature of the Kremlin’s foreign policy and the need to strengthen cooperation between Russia and the «brotherly» Slavic states.

Danko carried out flawlessly the task set by Moscow to prevent the adoption of the Slovak-American defense agreement (and all this happened in a NATO member state!). Former prime ministers Fico and Pellegrini, to preserve the unity of the ruling coalition, did not exert any pressure on Danko or the SNP. Power and the political and material benefits associated with it (including purely personal ones) were much closer to them than the national interests of the country.

At the same time, it should be noted that Russian MIGs are still in service in the Slovak Air Force and their maintenance is conducted with the help of Russian military specialists stationed at Slovak military airfields.

After the center-right pro-Western government came to power in March 2020, the process of adopting the Slovak-American agreement resumed. And then it all began. If ever a tutorial is written on exposing foreign influence operations in Central Europe under hybrid threats, then what happened in Slovakia in early 2022 can be safely included in this tutorial as a most illustrative example.

An active measure, which could have, for example, been code named «No to the defense agreement with the U.S.!» was carried out in four main directions.

The first of these directions was the activation of «peaceful civic initiatives» that were, as is typical in such cases in Slovakia, pro-Russian and anti-Western. One such initiative, «United for Peace,» makes itself felt whenever it is necessary to organize protests against the armed actions of «American imperialism» or «Israeli militarism.» When Russia seizes part of the territory of neighboring Ukraine by force or bombs the civilian population in Syria, the initiative is silent and does not notice anything, staying long dormant. This time, demonstrating a stored-up pro-Kremlin orientation and awakening from a temporary lethargy, representatives of this «peace» initiative attacked the Slovak-American agreement as a document that supposedly undermines Slovakia’s sovereignty. (It would be a waste of time to analyze the absurd nature of such statements.) Speaking at rallies, including in front of the parliament building and in front of the residence of the American embassy in the center of Bratislava, pro-Russian “peace fighters,” often under Russian and Soviet flags, agreed on a terrible prediction – American soldiers, while in Slovakia, would rape Slovak women with impunity.

The second direction of activity consisted of the activation of pro-Russian forces on the political scene in Slovakia. The entire parliamentary opposition – from fascists to post-communists who call themselves socialists and social democrats – united, seeking with a common impulse the failure of the ratification of the defense agreement in parliament. Representatives of the red-brown alliance, no longer content with allegations of an unfavorable, supposedly unequal agreement from Slovakia’s perspective, stated in plain language that the goal of those who support the ratification of the Slovak-American agreement is to unleash a war with Russia and draw the Slovak people into it. The fact that Russia was at the same time concentrating troops on the border with Ukraine, ready for an invasion, did not trouble them at all. They believed that there was no need to reproach Russia for its not entirely peaceful behavior, although many such reproaches were made by «peaceful activists» regarding Ukraine.

The third direction was the search and identification of a leader in the struggle for the sovereignty of Slovakia in the battle against the defense agreement with the U.S. He was quickly found, and the hopes placed on him seem fully justified. This is Prosecutor General Maroš Žilinka, a strange individual who, by the will of fate (more precisely, because of a normal political deal between the parties of the ruling coalition) was elected to the position of main defender of the rule of law in the country. During his tenure in this high post, he twice visited Russia, participating there in events organized by the Kremlin Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov. The day before the defense agreement was submitted for approval to the government, Žilinka, as part of the official process of preliminary consideration of legislative acts, proposed 36 points of principle disagreement with its adoption, serving in the role of prosecutor general for the first time in the history of the country’s foreign policy. The next day, he defiantly left for Moscow to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Russian prosecutor’s office.

On the same day, when the parliament met to ratify the agreement, Žilinka demanded that he be given the opportunity to personally address the deputies (of course, with a proposal to refuse ratification) and wrote on his Facebook page «I cannot be silent.» The deputies, however, did not give him such an opportunity, after which he distributed the 25-page text of his speech among journalists. In addition to the already voiced, and in all cases totally unfounded, complaints regarding the agreement, he added one more, totally outrageous claim. The General Prosecutor of this free nation did not hesitate in asserting that the agreement signed in 1968 between then Prague and Moscow in the presence of 74,000-strong Soviet troops (in addition to 39,000 members of the families of officers) in an occupied Czechoslovakia broken by military invasion, was supposedly more beneficial for Slovakia than an agreement between Bratislava and Washington on the stay of a group of American military specialists working on Slovak airfields together with Slovak pilots.

Following the riots staged by the fascist segment of the opposition right in the meeting room with the participation of opposition deputies, Parliament ratified the defense agreement. That day it was signed by President Zuzana Čaputová, who from the very beginning supported the ratification and did everything possible to ensure that it would take place.

However, the ratification of the agreement did not stop agents of Russian influence. Active measures aimed at the breakdown of Slovak society continued, this time in a fourth direction. Members of the informal red-brown, communist-fascist front launched a campaign of hate speech against deputies who voted for the ratification of the defense agreement. Some opposition deputies published lists of those who voted for the ratification of the agreement, with their photographs and with calls to «show them their disgust» (that is, according to the case, with a call to attack them).

Participants of «peaceful demonstrations» have begun to post leaflets in the places of residence of these deputies with the inscription «Traitors live here.» This is a direct path to civil conflict.

Now it is law enforcement agencies’ turn, as it is in their power to stop the spread of the infection of possible violence. And all Slovak democrats should not forget that the fight against the threat of authoritarianism and extremism is integral part of having a clear foreign policy orientation towards the community of Western democracies.



Материал доступен на русском языке: Как в Словакии ратифицировали соглашение об оборонном сотрудничестве с США