Slovakia approves defense military treaty with US
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s parliament and president on Wednesday approved a defense military treaty with the United States.
The Defense Cooperation Agreement passed 79-60 in the 150-seat legislature in a vote split between lawmakers from the four-party ruling coalition and the opposition.
The treaty allows the U.S. military to use two Slovak air force bases — Malacky-Kuchyna and Sliac — for 10 years while Slovakia — a NATO member like the U.S. — will receive $100 million from the U.S. to modernize them.
The deal was signed by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Slovakia’s defense minister, Jaroslav Nad, on Feb. 3 in Washington. It was ratified by President Zuzana Caputova on Wednesday.
The parliament vote took place amid fears that Russia will invade Ukraine. Moscow has massed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, but insists it has no plans to attack. The European Union nation of Slovakia borders Ukraine.
The treaty was backed by the government of Prime Minister Eduard Heger, who said it will “significantly enhance our security.” But the agreement was fiercely opposed by the opposition, which claims it compromises the country’s sovereignty, makes possible a permanent presence of U.S. troops on Slovak territory and even enables a possible deployment of nuclear weapons in Slovakia.
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The Slovak and U.S. governments have rejected those charges.
“Nothing in today’s agreement creates permanent U.S. bases or troop presence in Slovakia, and the agreement fully respects Slovakia’s sovereignty and laws,” Blinken said during last week’s signing ceremony at the U.S. State Department.
Thousands rallied Tuesday against the agreement in front of the parliament building in the capital of Bratislava when lawmakers were debating it.
The U.S. has such agreements with 23 other NATO members, including Poland and Hungary, two other countries that border Ukraine on the eastern flank of the alliance.
Any particular deployment of U.S. forces still needs approval by the Slovak government and parliament.
Follow all AP stories on tensions over Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.