Slovak government clashes over largest-ever arms purchase
Slovakia's prime minister clashed with the defence ministry on 30 November over a deal to acquire US-made F-16 jets in what is slated as the NATO member's biggest military purchase.
The defence ministry announced that it had concluded three agreements to buy 14 Lockheed Martin-made aircraft plus arms and training valued at €1.58 billion ($1.8 billion).
Hours later, Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini issued a statement saying that the contracts were invalid because they had not been approved by the finance ministry.
‘Premier Pellegrini considers the contracts regarding the purchase of F-16 fighters signed earlier in the day by the defence ministry to be invalid for the moment, as the finance ministry still hasn't approved the deal,’ a statement said.
The defence ministry is headed by Peter Gajdos from the hard-right Slovak National Party, a junior coalition partner to Pellegrini's populist left SD-Smer Social Democracy.
Analysts suggested Friday that the clash was likely rooted in an internal power struggle within the coalition.
A former communist NATO and eurozone member of 5.4 million people, Slovakia is seeking to replace its ageing fleet of Soviet-designed, Russian made MiG-29 fighter jets.
The US State Department approved the F-16 deal in April. Pellegrini's government had formally decided in July to go ahead with the purchase.
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