Thousands of Slovaks protest military treaty between US and east European nation
Thousands of people in Slovakia rallied Tuesday to protest a military treaty between their central European nation and the United States, which are both members of NATO.
Waving national flags and banners such as “Stop USA Army," the protesters gathered in Bratislava in front of Parliament, where lawmakers were debating the Defense Cooperation Agreement. Police prevented some protesters from entering the building.
A vote by Slovak lawmakers on the measure is expected on Wednesday. Any particular future deployment of U.S. forces will need approval by the Slovak government and Parliament.
The protest comes as the United States, its NATO allies, and Ukraine have accused Russia of amassing troops near Ukraine's border for a possible invasion. Moscow rejects the allegation and insists that deployments are defensive in nature.
The US military has placed 8,500 troops on heightened alert to prepare for deployment in Eastern Europe and bolster the NATO presence in the region. The US State Department has also approved shipments of US-made missiles and other weapons from NATO allies Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia to Ukraine.
A potential military treaty with Washington has been supported by Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger's four-party ruling coalition government, which said it will “significantly enhance our security.”
But opponents say a U.S. military deal would compromise the country’s sovereignty, make possible a permanent presence of U.S. troops on Slovak territory, enable a deployment of nuclear weapons in Slovakia and provoke Russia.
The treaty allows the U.S. military to use two Slovak air force bases — Malacky-Kuchyna and Sliac — for 10 years while Slovakia will receive $100 million from the U.S. to modernize them.