President Biden said Friday that the Slovak government has sent a Soviet-designed S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system to Ukraine. In return, the US is sending a Patriot missile system to Slovakia.
“I want to thank the Slovakian government for providing an S-300 air defense system to Ukraine, something President Zelenskyy has personally raised with me in our conversations. To enable this transfer and ensure the continued security of Slovakia, the United States will reposition a US Patriot missile system to Slovakia,” Biden said in a statement.
Announcing the move, Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger said it does not mean Slovakia is entering the war. “The donation of the system does not mean that the Slovak Republic has become a part of the armed conflict in Ukraine,” Heger said.
Ukraine has been pleading with the US and NATO to send S-300s as well as warplanes and tanks. Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Czech Republic said it had delivered slightly more than a dozen Soviet-designed T-72M tanks.
NATO military aid had previously been limited to shoulder-fired anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. The S-300 and tank deliveries mark an escalation in the Western campaign to pour weapons into Ukraine, and more arms are coming.
On Thursday, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba traveled to Brussels to meet with NATO ministers and pleaded for more advanced equipment. After the meeting, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said NATO members agreed to start providing Ukraine with “new and heavier” weapons.
When it comes to the heavier equipment, Ukraine needs Soviet-designed systems, since that’s what their armed forces are trained to use. But Truss said NATO members agreed “to help Ukrainian forces move from their Soviet-era equipment to NATO standard equipment, on a bilateral basis.” Her comments signal that NATO is preparing for the long-term.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US was looking at sending Ukraine “new systems.” Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the Biden administration has pledged $1.7 billion in new military aid for the Ukrainians.