Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 27

Slovakia has apparently decided to significantly curtail its acquisitions of Russian military hardware, and would also like to revise an earlier US$150 million contract under which the country was to have purchased Russian S-300 air defense missiles. As the Russian newspaper “Kommersant daily” noted sourly on February 4, Bratislava’s decision to cut purchases of Russian arms is a result of the fall of the Vladimir Meciar pro-Russian government last autumn and its replacement with a government committed to close ties with the EU and NATO. Prior to those elections, allegations of corruption in connection with the S-300 deal had circulated among Slovakian defense officials. The new government subsequently made clear that it intended to review establishing broader relations with Russia.

Slovakia’s arms deals with Russia were intended to help Moscow repay its debts–estimated at US$1 billion–to Bratislava. According to “Kommersant daily,” however, the new Slovakian government proposed to Moscow late last year that the debt be paid not in military hardware, but by increasing supplies of such raw materials as oil, gas and uranium for Slovakian nuclear power plants. The Russian government response to the new proposal was reportedly negative. More recently, on February 3, the Slovakian Finance Ministry reportedly announced that it would study the “expediency” of fulfilling the S-300 deal with Russia. According to “Kommersant daily,” a decision is expected by the end of the month.

The Russian newspaper equated Slovakia’s decision to forego purchase of the S-300s with a similar decision which the government of Cyprus recently made. Both decisions, the newspaper said, resulted from pressure by NATO and the United States. Washington in particular was said to be determined to stop sales of the S-300 complexes to protect the position of its own Patriot air defense missile systems. “Kommersant daily” suggested that the curtailment of its arms dealings with Moscow was one of the prices that Slovakia had to pay for improved ties to the EU and NATO (Kommersant daily, February 4; Itar-Tass, January 28).

In remarks yesterday, Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda said that Bratislava was interested in developing good relations with Russia. But he made clear that the country is reorienting itself to promote closer ties to the West, and also to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary–the three Eastern European countries slated to be accepted into NATO this summer (Itar-Tass, February 8).