US military can now use air bases in EU state bordering Ukraine
Slovakia’s parliament has approved a polarizing defense treaty under which the US will use the country’s Malacky-Kuchyna and Sliac air bases for 10 years and pay Bratislava $100 million to modernize them. After a round of loud debates on Wednesday, 79 members of the 150-seat Slovakian legislature backed the agreement, while 60 voted against it. The deal, signed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Slovakian Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad on February 3, still has to be ratified by the Central European country’s president, Zuzana Caputova, who apparently supports it.
Several political parties have fiercely opposed the agreement, while thousands protested the deal with Washington outside the parliament building in Slovakia’s capital on Tuesday.
Thanking his colleagues for their vote, Minister Nad said: “I’m extremely proud that, despite the pressure from trolls, the fabricated pressure on social media, and organized protests, the members of the [ruling] coalition have realized what is important for the Slovak Republic and the next generations.”
The US and Slovakia are military allies through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The agreement with the US was signed amid the ongoing standoff between the Western military bloc and Russia over Ukraine and the bloc’s expansion in Eastern Europe.
Former Slovak prime minister Robert Fico, whose left-wing SMER-SD party opposes the agreement, promised to collect signatures in order to put the “treasonous” deal up for a referendum. “I believe the citizens of the Slovak Republic will say no to the agreement,” Fico said. “We have handed over our airspace and airports [to be] under the control of the US.”