The US has pledged to replace the S-300 missile defense system that Slovakia sent to Ukraine with one of its own Patriot systems, President Joe Biden announced on Friday. Bratislava previously revealed it had “donated” its only S-300 system to Kiev earlier on Friday.
“I want to thank the Slovakian government for providing an S-300 air defense system to Ukraine, somethingPresident [Volodymyr] Zelensky has personally raised with me in our conversations,” Biden declared in a statement promising a substitute system.
The US president also issued a vague warning against “complacency” in NATO’s response to Russian military activity in Ukraine, stating that “as the Russian military repositions for the next phase of this war, I have directed my Administration to continue to spare no effort to identify and provide to the Ukrainian military the advanced weapons capabilities it needs to defend its country.”
Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin promised to deliver the missiles “in coming days,” while acknowledging there was no “fixed” deployment length, and that Washington was still consulting with the Slovak government over “more permanent air defense solutions.” However, he said the deployment of the Patriot system “aligns perfectly” with US efforts to bolster NATO’s air defenses.
The US has shipped tens of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and other military aid to Ukraine in the last several weeks to bolster the Zelensky government’s fight against Russia. A number of European allies have also joined in sending military aid. While the Kremlin has expressed hope that the war could be over in the near future, it has also accused Kiev of backpedaling on peace negotiations, claiming that the Ukrainian side is attempting to stall for time and continue the conflict. Moscow has also argued that further weapons deliveries will only prolong the agony and that they could be targeted by the Russian military.
Meanwhile, Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger stressed that the “donation” of his country’s only S-300 missile defense system to Ukraine did not constitute entering the war against Russia, declaring in a Facebook post that he had made the “responsible” decision since the system was “purely defensive.” While he did not name the US at the time, he promised Bratislava had not compromised its own security, pledging its air defenses would soon be replenished by “allies.”