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11/12/2016

Slovak PM sees ‘70% chance’ of military conflict beyond Russia and Ukraine

Europe's East

Slovak PM sees ‘70% chance’ of military conflict beyond Russia and Ukraine

Robert Fico (right) Photo Slovak government

“There is a 70% probability of a military conflict in Ukraine and not only there,” warned Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico on Tuesday (2 December), saying Europe had stepped aside to leave the United States play the leading role in the region. EurActiv Slovakia reports.

At the economic conference in Bratislava, Fico portrayed the conflict in Ukraine’s separatist regions as a clash between Russia and United States.

The EU now plays a “third-class” role in the region, Fico added, saying a “reliable German source” told him about the high chances of the conflict escalating into a broader war.

The annexation of Crimea is a done deal, the Slovak Prime Minister said. No European leader seem to doubt this anymore. “However, I cannot imagine further violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” he continued.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s sudden change of attitude towards Russia came as a surprise, Fico went on, saying her tough stance clashes with a widespread impression in Germany that the sanctions on Russia have not solved anything.

“Regarding Russia, it is no secret that I have visited this country many times and that we are currently planning another visit on a governmental level,” Fico said. “There are major economic projects we cannot overlook.”

Fico’s remarks immediately stinged the right-wing opposition.

Former defence minister Martin Fedor pointed out that questioning country’s commitment in the ongoing conflict was “foolishness” that could jeopardise the interests of the Slovak Republic. “Of course, every conflict can escalate into a greater one,” he said.

MEP Ivan Štefanec (SDKÚ-DS/EPP) was also critical of the PM’s gig. “His words about alleged global conflict between Russia and USA are a dangerous simplification that obscures the fact that Russian soldiers, not American, are the ones currently occupying the territory of Ukraine.”

For Štefanec, the whole speech was meant at spreading false rumours.

In an interview with the leading Slovak daily SME, Alexander Duleba, a political analyst from the Slovak Foreign Policy Association, wondered why the Prime Minister had to cite unknown foreign sources, while the state intelligence service knows what is actually going on in Ukraine. Duleba was referring to Fico’s earlier statement claiming that matters in Ukraine were not as clear as they appeared to be.

Background

The Ukrainian parliament, voted in a new government on 2 December, putting foreign technocrats in key ministerial positions.

The new cabinet includes finance minister Natalie Jaresko, a US citizen, who has worked in Ukraine for more than 20 years after holding various economic positions in the US State Department.

The other two foreign appointees to the cabinet were Lithuanian Aivaras Abromavicius, a partner in investment firm East Capital, and Georgian Aleksander Kvitashvili, who are now economy and health ministers, respectively.

Ukraine has been offered billions of dollars in aid by international lenders if it carries out economic reform and President Petro Poroshenko said the administration would benefit from international specialist input.

>> Read: Rada approves new Ukraine government