Slovakia has preliminarily agreed to provide Ukraine with a key Soviet-era air defence system to help defend against Russian airstrikes, CNN reported.
The media referred to three sources familiar with the matter and stated that the US and NATO are still grappling with how to backfill the country's own defense capabilities, and the transfer is not yet assured.
“According to two of the sources, Slovakia, one of three NATO allies that have the S-300 missile defence system, wants assurances that the systems will be replaced immediately,” CNN reported.
Ministry wants an adequate replacement
The Defence Ministry confirmed for the TASR newswire that without adequate replacement, Slovakia cannot get rid of the system of air defence that currently protects Slovak air space.
Any country providing S-300s is likely to receive the US-made Patriot air defence missile system to backfill the capability it would be giving up, according to two other sources familiar with the negotiations, the CNN reported.
The Defence Ministry announced earlier that the NATO troops coming to Slovakia, which was approved this week in parliament, will bring the Patriot system, provided to Slovakia from Germany.
US Defense Secretary in Slovakia
CNN pointed out that integrating a new, complex air defence system into a country's existing military architecture, as well as training its forces to use it, can take time.
Another diplomat said for CNN that Slovak troops would not need training as they've operated Patriots in joint missions with other countries previously, the diplomat said.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrives in Slovakia for a visit on March 17. PM Eduard Heger, during a political debate over the weekend at public service television RTVS, did not exclude supplying the S-300 system to Ukraine as a topic of dialogue. He also emphasised that his priority is the safety of his own territory.