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NATO’s perceived interference in Slovakia’s electoral campaign

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Slovakia – Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová is probably not the only one worried that the social-democratic parties of former prime ministers Robert Fico and Peter Pellegrini, Smer and Hlas, are leading the polls just a few months ahead of the early parliamentary elections scheduled for September 30. NATO allies have good reasons to expect that a government led by Robert Fico would pursue a different policy course regarding the level of support provided to Ukraine. NATO is therefore now planning a campaign entitled “Why Ukraine Matters” to raise awareness in Slovakia of the importance of continued support for Ukraine, how this support is linked to Slovakia’s security, and NATO’s role in making Slovakia secure.

In Fico’s eyes, however, the goal is to

cause Smer voters to change their opinion on Ukraine and rally them to the camp supporting arms deliveries.

For his part, the interim government’s foreign minister, Miroslav Wlachovský, who was appointed in May by Zuzana Čaputová, says he does not see “this campaign as problematic or contrary to Slovakia’s interests”, and the Slovak Ministry of Defence has explained that “NATO conducts awareness-raising activities on specific topics in member countries, based on opinion polls.

These are perfectly normal activities carried out by many organisations that are seeking to explain to the public the importance of subjects of social interest.

Questioned on this subject by a Slovak journalist at a joint conference with Prime Minister Ľudovít Ódor in Bratislava on June 6, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said something similar:

NATO conducts different information campaigns in different NATO Allies. That’s a normal thing we have done many, many times before, also in Slovakia (…) It’s something we do in full coordination with the national authorities, and of course

NATO is there to protect democracy, to protect freedom and openness.

We will never go into domestic political issues, but we are there to protect the right of every nation to have their own democratic processes.

Both Robert Fico and Peter Pellegrini are highly critical of their country’s policy on the war in Ukraine. The two politicians, who were once close friends and are now fierce competitors, have been overtly critical of NATO and Western involvement in Ukraine. Before that, they were also fiercely critical of the European-style restrictive health policies which Slovakia’s centre right-wing coalition enforced in Slovakia in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Just a short time ago, a campaign of a similar kind, which was financed by the United States, triggered an outcry in Hungary.