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04BRATISLAVA135 2004-02-10 06:12:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Bratislava
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1. (SBU) During your visit as SACEUR to Slovakia on
February 12-13, you may wish to emphasize the following
priorities that the U.S. and NATO share:

-- encourage the GOS to maintain their commitment to
spend two percent of GDP on defense;

-- thank the GOS for their contributions to Operation
Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as
their intended deployment to ISAF in May;

-- encourage the GOS to stay the course on military
reform and professionalization.

Political Dynamics


2. (SBU) Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's government
is a center-right coalition made up of four parties
that were elected in the fall of 2002 to a four-year
term. Although this government is more ideologically
coherent than its predecessor, also led by Dzurinda, it
has faced considerable challenges since its formation.
Dzurinda recalled Minister of Defense Ivan Simko in
September 2003 for what he described as
insubordination. Simko would not support the Prime
Minister's decision to recall the head of the National
Security Office (NBU), which issues NATO security
clearances. Juraj Liska, a member of Dzurinda's party
and former mayor of Trencin, was named Defense Minister
in October.

3. (SBU) Your visit will include a meeting with
President Rudolf Schuster, who is running for
reelection in April. The president has little formal
power in Slovakia, but can influence decisions by using
his office as a bully pulpit and can veto legislation.
There are currently 12 candidates in the race, but only
three or four -- including Schuster, Foreign Minister
Eduard Kukan, and former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar
-- have any real chance of making it into the second

4. (SBU) Opposition parties and labor unions have
organized a referendum calling for early elections,
which Schuster wants to hold concurrently with the
Presidential election to attract greater voter turnout.
Slovakia has had only one successful referendum since
independence with the others failing due to a lack of
voter turnout. The referendum is non-binding, so the
decision to hold early elections would still have to be
made in parliament, where it would likely fail.

Defense Spending


4. (SBU) The Slovaks committed to spending 2 percent
of GDP after the Prague Summit. For 2004, the defense
budget is 1.81 percent of GDP, but additional outlays,
including settlement of Soviet-era debt, should bring
total defense spending to 2.02 percent. However,
Finance Minister Miklos has argued strongly that
defense spending be cut and it is unclear whether the
GOS and parliament have the willpower to keep defense
spending at a real 2 percent in the out years.



5. (SBU) Per capita, Slovakia is one of the most
active international peace-keeping nations with nearly
800 personnel deployed in 11 missions. The GOS, with
only minimal public backing, strongly supported the war
in Iraq and sent a chem-bio consequence management unit
to Kuwait under Czech command. After the end of
hostilities, the unit (82-strong) was replaced with an
engineering unit that is currently deployed in the
Polish sector. The Slovak parliament recently agreed
to increase the number of troops deployed in Iraq,
adding 23 to increase security.

6. (SBU) The Slovaks also have a 40-person air-field
construction unit deployed as part of OEF at Bagram Air
Base in Afghanistan. Their six-month mandate has been
extended three times. Prime Minister Dzurinda visited
this unit in January. Currently there is a proposal to
send a 16-person demining unit to Afghanistan under
ISAF command. This would be Slovakia's first mission
under the NATO flag.

Military Reform


7. (SBU) This year the Ministry of Defense will
conduct a mid-course review of its long-term military
reform strategy Force 2010. The review will take into
account changes in NATO Force Goals as well as
different realities in Slovakia. The Slovaks are
committed to developing their chemical defense unit as
a niche capability for NATO. The other niche
capabilities the Slovaks have identified are military
police and engineers.

8. (SBU) Defense Minister Liska recently commissioned
a new study on the air force which recommended
extending the life of 10 MiG-29s plus 2 trainers,
rather than follow the paths of their neighbors and
issue a tender for fighters. The study also suggested
upgrading 18 Mi-24 attack helicopters (they are
planning for 10) and acquiring 2-4 medium lift
transport aircraft by 2010. They are considering
acquiring C-130s under the Excess Defense Articles
program. This proposal is still in the early stages,
but the Slovaks are very interested. We have
encouraged Liska to incorporate the study within the
larger context of Force 2010.