Slovakia’s swing to pro-Russia government a further blow for Ukraine
It has not been a good weekend for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
On Sunday, one of the first countries to offer him support after the Russian invasion – Slovakia – saw party Smer take victory at the polls, winning just over 23 per cent of the vote.
While the party will still need to form a coalition to create a government, Smer’s win means Slovakia will become the first Nato country to show support for Russian president Vladimir Putin. It is a clear U-turn from its previous stance, when it was the first country to deliver fighter jets to the conflict-hit nation. Smer’s leader Robert Fico has previously stated that if elected, he would withdraw all support for Ukraine.
The vote comes just weeks after staunch ally Poland announced it would no longer send any weapons to Ukraine and would instead beef up its own military capabilities.
Meanwhile, just hours earlier, the US passed an 11th-hour hour congressional deal, which averted a government shutdown in the country. However, that deal did not include aid for Ukraine – a hot topic between the Republican and Democrat parties.
At present, the arrangement means support for Ukraine would halt immediately. But US president Joe Biden vowed there would be no interruption to US aid for Kyiv.
"I can reassure [Ukraine] we'll get there, that we're going to get it done," Mr Biden said, referring to restoring aid for the war.
While Mr Biden may well find some way to override the decision, the situation is indicative of a divided Congress over Ukraine. And with the presidential election looming next year, Mr Zelensky will no doubt be nervous.
Former American president and likely Republican candidate Donald Trump has previously argued the US should not be “sending very much” to Ukraine, while Ron de Santis, who is second to Mr Trump in the Republican leadership race, said recently that he would oppose Ukraine joining Nato.
Mr Fico, who resigned from one of his previous two stints as prime minister following mass protests against corruption, has previously voiced opposition to EU sanctions on Russia, does not back the idea of Ukraine joining Nato and has questioned its military ability against Russia.
The problem for Mr Zelensky is Mr Fico’s position is not in isolation. A survey of Slovakians earlier this year found just over 50 per cent of the nation believes Ukraine or the West are responsible for the conflict, an opinion he capitalised on during his election campaign. Meanwhile, Slovakia’s new stance, albeit with a left wing party with historic links to Communism, is increasingly aligned with that of Hungary, led by right-wing leader Viktor Orban.
“Guess who’s back!” the Hungarian prime minister said on X after Mr Fico’s election. “Always good to work together with a patriot. Looking forward to it.”
Domestic financial pressures across Europe will continue to be an issue when it comes to support for Ukraine. Even in the most pro-Ukraine, liberal nations, governments are facing some opposition to the huge amounts of money that are being poured into the war.
Mr Zelensky will have to hope his strongest supporters continue to hold on a while longer.
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