BRATISLAVA, Slovakia: Thousands protested on February 8 in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, against a military defense treaty between their nation and the U.S., both members of NATO.
Protesters gathered in front of the parliament building, where lawmakers were debating the Defense Cooperation Agreement. Police prevented some protesters from entering the building.
The debate was also obstructed by opposition lawmakers, who used whistles to prevent others from speaking and seized a Ukrainian flag unveiled by coalition lawmakers.
Ukraine’s embassy in Bratislava protested the incident, which took place amid fears of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A vote by Slovak lawmakers on the measure is expected this week.
The protest united the Slovak opposition, including the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia and the leftist Smer-Social Democracy of former populist Prime Minister Robert Fico.
In 2018, Fico supported the treaty when he started the negotiations on it with the U.S., but he has since turned into a vocal opponent.
Prime Minister Eduard Heger’s four-party ruling coalition government supports the agreement, which it said will “significantly enhance our security.”
But the opposition claims it would compromise the country’s sovereignty, as it will allow the U.S. military to have a permanent presence on Slovak territory, enable a deployment of nuclear weapons and provoke Russia, which are charges rejected by the Slovak and U.S. governments.
The treaty will allow the U.S. military to use two Slovak air force bases for 10 years, while Slovakia will receive American funding worth $100 million to modernize the bases.
Any particular future deployment of U.S. forces will still need approval by the Slovak Government and Parliament.