The United States has prepared to install surface-to-air missiles in NATO member Slovakia amid the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia over security issues in Eastern Europe.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby announced Friday that US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has spoken with his Slovak counterpart Jaroslav Nad about deploying a Patriot air defense system to his country next week.
During the conversation, “both leaders discussed the important role the defensive system would play in sustaining Ukraine and saving lives in this country,” Kirby said. Nad thanked Austin for ordering the “repositioning of an American Patriot system in Slovakia to help provide deterrence and NATO homeland defense.”
The Pentagon spokesperson added, “This deployment of Patriot capabilities to Slovakia aligns perfectly with our previous efforts to bolster NATO’s defensive capabilities,” adding that the US Patriot missile system “also complements the battlegroup. NATO multinational in eastern Slovakia, which includes air defense elements. from Germany and the Netherlands.
Prior to the Pentagon’s announcement, Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger revealed that his country would transfer its S-300 air defense system to neighboring Ukraine to combat Russian forces operating in the country.
Slovakia previously said Ukraine had requested the transfer of the Russian-built long-range surface-to-air missile system to the country.
The move comes amid a special Russian military operation aimed at demilitarizing the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, which is mainly populated by ethnic Russians.
The United States and its European allies have called the military operation a “land grab” plan launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Moscow, however, has insisted it will end the operation if kyiv meets Russia’s demands, including dropping an ambitious bid to join the NATO military alliance.