Russia Might Soon Have a New Ally in Europe

Possible new Slovakia PM Robert Fico has vowed to end weapons deliveries to Ukraine
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2023 3:02 PM CDT
Russia Might Soon Have a New Ally in Europe
Blaha regularly describes President of Slovakia Zuzana Caputova as a "fascist"   (AP Photo, File)

With around 5.5 million people in an area smaller than West Virginia, Slovakia has never been a massive player on the international stage—but its September 30 election will be closely watched in the European Union and beyond. The country has been one of the firmest supporters of its neighbor Ukraine since Russia invaded last year, but the party topping the polls is led by Robert Fico, who has praised Moscow and vowed to halt weapons deliveries to Ukraine, the New York Times reports. Victory for Fico and his SMER party would turn the country "into a neutral bystander more sympathetic to Moscow," per the Times.

It would also mean that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban would no longer be the only EU and NATO leader opposed to aiding Ukraine, the Times notes. Fico was prime minister from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2012 to 2018, when he resigned amid an outcry over the murder of a journalist who had been investigating corruption allegations. Lubos Blaha, deputy leader of Fico's party, describes pro-Ukraine government ministers as "American puppets" and says the Ukraine war is about "Russia protecting their cultural, national identity against this liberal mania in the West."

Analysts say Russia has targeted Slovakia with propaganda campaigns that have apparently paid off: According to the Globsec research group, only 40% of Slovaks blame Russia for the war, while 51% say Ukraine or the West are "primarily responsible." Since last-minute swings are common in Slovakia and coalition-building is complicated, it's hard to predict who will form the country's next government, John Kampfner writes at the Guardian. "What is beyond doubt, however, is that Fico is a major player once again and the politics he espouses is back in fashion," he writes. "It is a measure of ... how much faith in liberal democracy has been eroded here in the heart of Europe." (More Slovakia stories.)

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