Our eastern neighbor uses the S-300 system to shoot down enemy planes and missiles. It was an important milestone in the war because it meant that the taboo that heavy weapons would be sent to Ukraine was broken.
Since then, Slovakia has sent all 13 MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, the Bozen systems clear minefields, and the accuracy of the Zuzana howitzers is appreciated by Ukrainians in battle. The production of another 16 Zuzana 2 howitzers for Ukraine was ordered and paid for in October 2022 by Denmark, Norway and Germany. When their production is completed, together with other military equipment or ammunition, they will be directed to our neighbor so that he can defend himself against the aggressor. Military aid is only one piece of the overall aid puzzle. It also includes financial or humanitarian aid.
The mentioned secret and successful action with the importation of the S-300 anti-aircraft system to Ukraine contributed to the fact that Slovakia took the leading place in the ranking of aid to Ukraine throughout the world. Our country ranked 14th out of all countries in the world in the volume of military aid that went to Ukraine. In relation to the gross domestic product, we even found ourselves in sixth place within the European Union.
From January 2022 to the end of October 2023, Slovakia’s total military aid was at the level of 700 million euros, according to data from the German Kiel Institute for the World Economy. It collects data not only on military aid, but also on humanitarian or financial aid. It regularly updates the ranking of countries that help Ukraine.
The Slovak S-300 system and Czech tanks were the first heavy weapons delivered to Ukraine by NATO member countries. “Together with the Czechs, we broke the taboo on the supply of heavy weapons, until then only light weapons were supplied, then other countries joined, the Poles were among the first after us and the Czechs,” Alexander Duleba, an analyst at the Slovak Society for Foreign Policy (SFPA), told Pravda. . According to him, Slovakia together with the Poles broke another taboo with the delivery of fighters, which created the conditions for the decision of other countries to deliver F-16 fighters. There are now other types of fighter jets in the game.
According to Duleb, there are two main reasons why we stand out in helping Ukraine compared to other countries. The first is aid to Ukrainian refugees in Slovakia in the amount of 530 million euros. This aid was not paid directly from the state budget, but unused European funds from the previous operational program were used. This type of aid is not of a military nature, but of a humanitarian nature.
The second reason is the delivery of fighter jets, which increased the value of our total military aid to the level of approximately 700 million euros. “Aid to refugees in Slovakia, which was paid not from the state budget, but from unspent EU funds and the supply of fighter jets, are the two main items of our bilateral aid at the government level, which are included in the calculations,” explains Duleba. To date, however, the total aid may be slightly higher. Military equipment was also being repaired in Slovakia, last year we were also supposed to produce and deliver up to 50,000 pieces of artillery ammunition, and two of the 16 ordered Zuzana howitzers were already delivered to Ukraine last August. Another 14 howitzers will go to Ukraine during the fourth government of Robert Fico (Smer).
Small states at the top of the ranking
Small European states are thus placed on the first rungs of the aid ranking. However, it is not that they send the largest amounts, but the aid is given in proportion to the size of the economy. For example, the first Lithuania gives up to 1.8 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to help Ukraine. This includes both bilateral aid and, on the other hand, a share of total European aid. The second place was occupied by Estonia, the third by Norway, the fourth by Denmark. It is followed by Latvia and immediately after it is Slovakia, which helps at the level of 1.3 percent of GDP. In the case of Slovakia, bilateral aid constitutes 0.6 percent of GDP and the share of total European aid is 0.7 percent. In relation to the performance of our economy, Slovakia’s aid to Ukraine is therefore among the most generous in the world.
The basic difference between bilateral aid and the share of total European aid is as follows. The share of total European aid expresses our national contribution to a specific EU program. There are many individual programs of the union, and the share of a specific state is calculated from all of them. This can be illustrated by the European program called the European Connecting Facility, which was specially established for the countries neighboring Ukraine. In addition to Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania were included in it. Its goal was the construction of cross-border infrastructure. The total amount was allocated in the program and then projects were only implemented and co-financed from this amount.
On the other hand, there is bilateral aid, which is an agreement between Slovakia and Ukraine outside of EU programs. Again, in this case too, there are several possibilities for such cooperation. Let’s mention, for example, the European Peace Facility program, which covers the costs of military supplies, but up to a maximum of 50 percent. In other words, the EU can cover up to half of the cost of supplying weapons to Ukraine. Such aid is then half bilateral aid and the other half is our contribution to EU aid. Bilateral aid also includes ambulances sent to Ukraine by Fico’s government, as well as the SlovakAid program and preferential loans from Eximbank, which they want to supply to Ukraine.
If we look purely at military aid to Ukraine, Slovakia spent 700 million euros for the period from January 2022 to the end of October 2023. This volume of aid ranked us 14th out of 31 countries in the world that militarily aided Ukraine. It is no surprise that the most massive aid came from the USA, up to almost 44 billion euros. Second place was taken by Germany with more than 17 billion euros. The United Kingdom is in third place with aid in the amount of 6.6 billion euros. Just for comparison, neighboring Poland gave three billion euros for military aid, and the Czech Republic one billion euros. Slovakia even helped militarily much more than, for example, richer France or Belgium. “Ukraine is now increasingly reliant on a core group of donors, such as the US, Germany, the country’s Nordic and Eastern European states, who continue to pledge and deliver financial aid and important weapons such as F-16 fighter jets,” the Kiel Institute authors wrote in the margo statistics.
The well-known chief commentator Martin Wolf from the prestigious financial newspaper Financial Times drew attention to the data on military aid to Ukraine. He points out that military aid to Ukraine is still cheap compared to Europe’s energy aid or compared to US military spending in other conflicts. For example, Germany’s energy subsidies were at 6.55 percent of GDP, and their aid to Ukraine was only 0.95 percent of GDP. Other European countries are in the same situation. On average, energy aid in the EU was at the level of 3.5 percent of GDP, and aid to Ukraine was just over half a percent of GDP.
The argument that the governments of European countries are helping Ukraine at the expense of their own companies or households is not valid. The sums expected to be agreed to help Ukraine this year together represent just less than 0.25 percent of the combined gross domestic product of the US, EU and UK. “Any argument that we can’t afford it is ridiculous,” economist Wolf wrote in a regular commentary.
The warehouses are already half empty
Whether it was deliveries of the S-300 anti-aircraft system or fighter jets, it was still the government of Eduard Heger that has the main credit for military deliveries. The current Prime Minister Robert Fico has already declared in the past that if Smer is in government, he will not send a single bullet to Ukraine. He wants to focus more on humanitarian aid.
However, Duleba does not think that aid to Ukraine will decrease with the arrival of Fico’s government. Our armories have massively started the production of weapons and ammunition for large orders. For example, ammunition will be produced in even larger volumes, and the plan is to reach the production level of 150,000 pieces of artillery ammunition per year already in 2025. Konštrukta-Defence State Armory received an order for the production of 16 howitzers. The Germans, Danes and Norwegians paid them. Two have already been sent to Ukraine, and 14 have yet to be produced. As soon as they are made, they will be sent into battle. “The repair of damaged military equipment will also continue. The government will not interfere with the existing agreed projects and will continue with at least humanitarian aid,” says Duleba.
According to him, the key will be whether the European Commission will allow us to use European funds to support refugees from Ukraine on our territory. That is money in hundreds of millions of euros. Military or humanitarian aid is calculated in the order of units or tens of millions of euros.
It will also depend on the extent to which Slovak companies are involved in the reconstruction of Ukraine. “We have companies that are ready to implement projects in Ukraine even now. The draft of possible financial mechanisms for state guarantees is on the table of the current government, it was prepared by the previous government. Whether it will be millions or tens of millions of state guarantees depends on the government’s decision. This will also be included in the volume of government aid according to the methodology of the Kiel Institute,” explains Duleba.
In conclusion, he adds that there is not much unnecessary old military equipment left in the warehouses. According to him, some unnecessary military material worth several tens of millions of euros could still be found in the warehouses, and we should provide it to Ukraine, because we really don’t need it anymore.