Slovakia’s defense minister said Thursday that the country was willing to give Ukraine its S-300 surface-to-air missile defense systems if it receives a “proper replacement.”
At a press conference in Slovakia with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said Slovakia was discussing the S-300s with the US and Ukraine. “We’re willing to do so immediately when we have a proper replacement. The only strategic air defense system that we have in Slovakia is S-300 system,” he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked for the S-300 air defense system in a plea to Congress on Wednesday. Ukraine is seeking the Soviet-designed S-300s since it already has some in its inventory and its forces are trained to use them. Other missile systems, such as the US-made Patriots, would require extensive training.
When asked about the US potentially replacing Slovakia’s S-300s, Austin said he didn’t have an announcement to make but said the US would continue to discuss the issue with its NATO allies. The US considered a similar proposal to backfill Poland’s fight jets with US warplanes if Warsaw gave Ukraine old Russian-made MiG-29s but ultimately decided sending the aircraft into Ukraine was too risky.
Sending S-300s and other weapons to Ukraine still risks provoking Russia, and Moscow on Thursday warned against providing Ukraine with air defense systems. “Such deliveries … would be a destabilizing factor which will definitely not bring peace to Ukraine,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. “In the long term, they could have much more dangerous consequences.”