This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS BRATISLAVA 000135
STATE FOR EUR/NCE, EUR/RPM
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: MARR PREL PGOV PINR LO NATO SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR VISIT OF GEN JAMES L. JONES, SACEUR
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.
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 round.
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.
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.
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.