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Slovakian Prime Minister Criticizes Italy’s Decision To Withdraw Air-Defense System

Italy’s decision to withdraw an air-defense system from Slovakia has triggered anger and frustration from Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, known for his pro-Russian stance.

The move, seen as a blow to Slovakia’s defense capabilities, comes amid ongoing tensions between NATO allies and Russia.

Fico’s Accusations Against Čaputová

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Prime Minister Robert Fico took to Facebook to criticize Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová, accusing her of serving foreign interests.

Reason Behind the Uproar

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He expressed fury over Italy’s decision to remove the SAMP/T air-defense system, claiming it would leave Slovakia vulnerable to threats, especially regarding the protection of nuclear power plants and other strategic sites.

Background of SAMP/T Deployment

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The French-made SAMP/T air-defense system was deployed to Slovakia in March 2023 when the Soviet-designed S-300 system was donated to Ukraine.

NATO declared the system operational a month later.

Italian Defense Ministry’s Statement

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An Italian Defense Ministry spokesperson clarified that the deployment of the SAMP/T system was temporary and defensive in nature.

The 12-month deployment was scheduled to conclude soon, necessitating the withdrawal of the system from Slovakia to address potential threats elsewhere.

Impact of Withdrawal on Slovakia

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The withdrawal of the SAMP/T system leaves Slovakia facing a gap in its defensive capabilities. With the transfer of its MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, Slovakia’s defense minister highlighted the country’s precarious situation without adequate air-defense systems or military aviation.

Seeking Alternatives

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Defense Minister Robert Kaliňák revealed Slovakia’s negotiations with the U.S. to acquire a Patriot surface-to-air missile defense system.

However, the timeline and terms of any potential agreement remain uncertain.

Slovakia is also hoping for a discount on the Patriot deal, leveraging a previous offer related to helicopter purchases.

Diplomatic Challenges for Slovakia

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Slovakia finds itself in a delicate diplomatic position, particularly following the return of Prime Minister Robert Fico, who opposes arming Ukraine and advocates for a ceasefire favoring Moscow’s interests.

The cessation of Slovakia’s military support for Ukraine under Fico’s leadership has drawn criticism from EU and NATO allies.

Fico’s Criticism of Western Strategy

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Prime Minister Fico reiterated his skepticism toward the West’s approach to the conflict in Ukraine, arguing that attempts to weaken Russia economically and militarily through the war have been ineffective.

He also criticized former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s alleged interference in peace talks, a claim dismissed by Johnson as Russian propaganda.

Ongoing Diplomatic Tensions

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The withdrawal of the air-defense system underscores the ongoing diplomatic tensions between NATO allies and Russia.

Slovakia’s defense concerns, coupled with Fico’s pro-Russian stance, highlight the complexities of navigating regional security dynamics in Eastern Europe.

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