Prime Minister Fico’s Russian card

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Series Details No.175 (01.07.15)
Publication Date 01/07/2015
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Since the beginning of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, the position of Slovakia’s left-wing government towards Russia has been ambiguous. Bratislava has accepted the EU sanctions targeting Russia and the plan for strengthening NATO’s eastern flank. At the same time, however, Prime Minister Robert Fico’s government has maintained close political relations with the Kremlin.

It has called for the intensification of Slovak-Russian economic relations and has repeatedly criticised the sanctions, speaking in tandem with Russian propaganda in so doing. Slovakia’s Prime Minister is hoping that by playing the role of one of the leaders in the EU and NATO who are most willing to cooperate with Russia, he will gain economic benefits and win votes in next spring’s upcoming parliamentary elections.

Despite numerous pro-Russian gestures, Slovakia has been limiting the number of areas in which Moscow could exert pressure on Bratislava. As it strives to become independent of Russia, Slovakia has ensured possible alternative fuel supplies for itself. Moreover, it has been gradually replacing Russian-made military equipment with equipment made in the West. The Slovak government does intend to develop the country’s cooperation with Russia, including in strategic areas involving supplies and transit of oil and gas, as well as supplies of nuclear fuel. Nevertheless, it has been making efforts to gain easy access to an alternative source of supplies in each of these areas.

Beset by crises, Russia has ever fewer economic cooperation opportunities to offer Slovakia, and Slovak businesses operating on the Russian market have to take into account the growing risk of insolvency of local contractors. To a great extent, therefore, Slovak-Russian relations have been reduced to rhetorical statements confirming the desire for closer cooperation, and to visions of joint projects accompanied by an ever shorter list of feasible cooperation initiatives.

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