Poland and Czechia signed an agreement Saturday to protect Slovak airspace as Slovakia gives up its old Soviet-made MiG-29 jets.
The vow of protection by NATO allies is to last until Slovakia receives new F-16s from the United States, something expected to happen in 2024.
Under the agreement, Poland and Czechia are providing the necessary forces to quickly react in the case of violations of Slovakia’s airspace.
The agreement was signed at a Slovak air base by defense ministers Mariusz Blaszczak of Poland, Jana Cernochova of Czechia and Jaroslav Nad of Slovakia.
Blaszczak said under the agreement, a pair of Polish F-16 fighter jets would begin patrolling Slovakia’s air space starting Sept. 1. He called the effort a way for the neighbors to “deter a possible aggressor.” Slovakia has a short border with Ukraine, which Russia invaded in February.
Slovakia has a fleet of 11 MiG-29 jets, and last month Nad said Slovakia may consider donating them to Ukraine under certain conditions.
Asked by a reporter at a joint news conference about whether the jets might go to Ukraine, Nad said Slovakia was in talks with Ukraine and European Union allies about how best to help. But he said he could not say what that help might look like yet.
Since the start of the Russian invasion Feb. 24, Ukraine has urged Western allies to provide it with warplanes to challenge Russia’s air superiority.
Poland, Czechia and Slovakia belong to a region that was under Moscow’s control during the decades of the Cold War. Many people here worry that if Russia isn’t stopped in Ukraine, Moscow’s renewed imperial ambitions could target them too.