NATO Considers Sending Troops to Slovakia: To Strengthen East Wing of Defences
Slovakian Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok confirmed on Friday that NATO is considering sending troops to the country bordering Ukraine.
In a contribution to the liberal newspaper Sme, the minister writes that the North Atlantic alliance is “consulting on the transfer of joint forces to some states of its east wing to strengthen their defences”.
Earlier, other government members such as Conservative Prime Minister Eduard Heger had responded evasively when Slovakian journalists asked for a response to a report by British TV channel Sky News on Thursday. They said they preferred to take diplomatic steps instead of threatening soldiers. The opposition parties, including both Social Democrats and right-wing extremists, have strongly opposed the deployment of additional NATO troops.
For weeks, Slovakia has been protesting against a military treaty with the United States. Opponents fear that additional US troops will be sent to the country and that Slovakia will become embroiled in the Ukraine conflict or become a target of Russia’s attack.
Korcok demanded in the newspaper Sme that Slovakia would make a clear commitment to the Western alliance. “Today, formal declarations that we are part of NATO are enough, no more. But, when it is unavoidable, we must also take steps to strengthen not only our defences but also the defences of our allies.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Friday: “Confrontation or consultation, it is up to Vladimir Putin to decide.” President Emmanuel Macron already called the Russian president about the tense situation earlier in the day. In the evening, Macron has scheduled a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
“The ball is now in the Russian court,” said Le Drain. The US and NATO rejected Moscow’s strategic demands earlier this week but said they were willing to negotiate. For example, Moscow is demanding an end to the alliance’s expansion policy, no Ukrainian membership and a return to Western military deployment at the borders of 1997.
Macron now wants to thaw the conflict by reviving the Minsk peace agreement. In 2015, Russia and Ukraine reached this agreement under the guidance of mediators France and Germany. The consultation is known as Normandy format. On Wednesday, representatives of the four countries met in Paris. The first negotiations were difficult, but they did provide a “positive signal”, according to the Elysée.
On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that he did not want war. “For decades, we have chosen the path of diplomacy,” Lavrov said in an interview on several radio and television channels in Russia. “We have to work with everyone; that’s our principle.” So if it depended on Russia, there would be no war. “But we will also not allow our interests to be grossly violated, ignored,” the Russian minister warned.
“It is essential to continue talking to the Russians so that Putin takes responsibility,” Le Drian said. But many other partners, especially in Eastern Europe, find the dialogue useless.