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In a show of appreciation to Slovakia for sending Kyiv Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets, the U.S. has offered to help Bratislava finance the purchase of several attack helicopters and Hellfire missiles.
According to Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad, the deal would be for the U.S. to provide $660 million in financing toward the $1 billion cost of purchasing 12 Bell AH-1Z attack helicopters, 500 AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles, and training for Slovak troops. Slovakia would be responsible for the remaining $340 million.
In a separate show of support, the EU plans to compensate Slovakia with $213 million for giving the MiG-29s to Ukraine. While the offer is still being considered, Nad acknowledged that receiving the helicopters would “significantly increase the defense capability of Slovakia.”
Without the MiG-29s that Slovakia sent to Kyiv, the country does not have an air force and is currently relying on Poland and the Czech Republic to monitor its airspace. While Slovakia signed an agreement in 2018 to purchase 14 U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, the new combat aircraft are not expected to be delivered until 2024, leaving the country very vulnerable in the interim.
The offer to help Slovakia purchase attack helicopters indicates that Washington had a hand in Slovakia’s decision to send its 13 MiG-29s to Ukraine – a decision that came after Poland announced that it would be sending its own MiG-29s to Kyiv.
As a result of the deals with Ukraine for the jets, Poland and Slovakia are now the first NATO members to provide Ukraine with fighter jets. A move that is sure to be seen as escalatory by Moscow and the Kremlin.
While a year ago, in March 2022, the Pentagon was staunchly against Poland sending its MiG-29s to Kyiv because officials thought that Russia would see it as NATO directly entering the war, those concerns have clearly faded as NATO has consistently become more involved in the defense of Ukraine over the past year.