By: Dr Dimitrij Rupel
Is Russia a good-for-nothing country? Current answers are more or less affirmative, but the possibilities of proof and action are very limited. When we read War and Peace, we are convinced of the absurdity of war and are disgusted by the mass slaughter. However, despite everything, we must marvel at the decency of the internal relations between soldiers and commanders, and ultimately also at the decency at the meetings of the officers of France and Russia. Dignity also prevailed at the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815), which practically ensured European stability there until the First World War and the October Revolution. While the French Revolution taught a lesson that continues to this day, the lesson of 1917 was something else. It was something similar to Yugoslavian or Slovenian revolution. Hate speech, which is so fondly discussed in the current Slovenian government, originates from the communist revolution. Today’s Russian politicians are not those of Tolstoy or of War and Peace. Neither the Soviet nor the Yugoslav revolutions have yet experienced a real lesson like the French one.
At the end of 2001, Slovenia ratified the so-called Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC) on July 17th, 1998. Soon after, a delegation from the American Congress visited Slovenia, which explained why the USA (similar to Russia, but unlike most UN members) will not ratify the Rome Statute. For legal reasons, but mainly for political reasons, the USA is not bound by the Hague Court, which these days (March 17th, 2023) issued an arrest warrant for the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, claiming that he is responsible for war crimes in Ukraine. In Russia, the value of the warrant has been compared to toilet paper.
On November 21st, 2022, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on the classification of the Russian Federation among countries that support terrorism. The official message of the European Parliament reads: “The European Parliament declares Russia a state that supports terrorism”. All the reports about this event classified Russia as one of the “good-for-nothing countries”. The same resolution was debated by the National Assembly on March 16th, 2023, but – at the behest of the government coalition – it opposed the inclusion of Russia among countries that support terrorism. The messages of the Slovenian media are the opposite of the messages of the European media. Despite solemn declarations that it acts in the same way as the European Union, Slovenia rejected the resolution of the European Parliament. The National Assembly acted in the same way as the four MEPs from the camp of the Slovenian left did last year. Of course, the question arises about the pro-Russian tendencies of the Slovenian government. Fiery commentators consider this a scandal, more moderate think it is a misunderstanding and ignorance of some (historical, also legal) facts.
The former Russian – Yeltsin – Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev gave two speeches at the OSCE meeting in Stockholm in 1992, with the first one he warned about where Russia could go in the future. Russia, he said in another speech, is at a crossroads: it can be a European or an Asian Russia. Kozyrev presented Yeltsin’s policy as positive and European. Yeltsin fell in 1999 when he chose Putin as Prime Minister, then as his successor.
Let’s remember: Bush and Putin met on Brdo during the rise of friendship between East and West (2001). The NATO-Russia Council lasted from 1997/2002 to 2014. In 2008, during the Slovenian presidency of the EU, Russia was still a member of the G8 group of the most powerful countries. At the summit in Bucharest in 2008, the North Atlantic Alliance NATO neglected Ukraine and Georgia, then Putin occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia first. The main question is: why did Putin reject peaceful coexistence with EU and NATO countries? Analyst Alexander Gabuev asks himself this question in the article (in Foreign Affairs): “Russia as it could be”. The shortest explanation of regret: the will to power.
The end of the Cold War is over. However, the warring parties also communicated during the Cold War. America’s dilemma regarding relations with the Soviet Union was containment or detente. The first policy was inspired by George Kennan with his “long telegram”, the second by Richard Nixon, and the influence of Henry Kissinger was not negligible. In a way, concessions were also contained by the German “Ostpolitik”, which barely resisted the temptation to reunify Germany already during the Cold War – on the condition that the Federal Republic of Germany withdraws from NATO.
American diplomat Tom Pickering believes that both Zelenskyy and Putin are determined to win. There are two mutually exclusive possibilities: will all of Ukraine be Ukrainian, or will all of Ukraine be Russian? By the way: Putin talks about the territory east of Odessa (Donbass, Crimea…) as “Newrussia”. Pickering considers the role of diplomacy (UN, EU, OSCE) at the end of the war and lists at least three gradual measures or steps:
- a) first of all, there must be consensus within the warring camps, i.e., consensus within the EU and between the EU and the USA. Slovenian politicians who swear by Slovenia as a “core country of the EU” should worry about the special interests of Germany and France;
- b) then it would be the turn of “pre-negotiations” regarding the possibility of a direct meeting between the competent representatives of the countries that are at war;
- c) only then would real negotiations follow with the possible help of China, India, Turkey, and the USA.
Pickering believes that the equality of Russian and Ukrainian would be essential for success. The international community should ensure the reconstruction of Ukraine, and Ukraine should be free to decide on membership of the alliances. The inhabitants of the disputed regions should decide (in referendums within 5-7 years): do they want to be part of Russia or part of Ukraine? Or autonomous regions of one country or another?
A misunderstanding in Slovenian foreign policy
The current government has forgotten how important and advisable consensus on foreign policy issues is: the coalition and the opposition should be patient and find formulations that are acceptable to both. It is not good to disagree on such important things as war, Russian politics, Putin, terrorism, etc. Another simple question is why Slovenia would be against a resolution that states notorious facts. We argue about why we should support it. The only question that makes sense is why not support it.
The current Minister of Foreign Affairs mentioned Slovenia’s candidacy for the position of a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council as a reason for diplomatic caution towards Russia (as well as reluctance towards front-line Central and Eastern European countries). If we ignore the Russian designation of Slovenia as an “enemy” country, the big question is, of course, what role will other, especially non-permanent members of the Security Council play in the future, if Russia continues to have the right of veto.
Slovenian foreign policy will be interpreted as pro-Russian and anti-European. But the difference between European and Slovenian politics has been noticeable for a long time, and now it has only gotten worse. In the European Parliament, the majority of left-wing and liberal MPs voted for the resolution, but in our case, they voted against.
Among the EU countries, the European resolution was supported by the Czechs, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Dutch, Poles, and Slovaks. And the minister was not telling the truth when she said that Romania was against it. The American Congress, EC, NATO acted the same way as the EP… By the way, the Minister underestimated the visit of the former Slovenian Prime Minister Janša to Kyiv and the significant delay of the new Prime Minister Golob with his visit to Ukraine.
If we put in parentheses the similarity of the Slovenian war with the YPA and the Ukrainian war with Moscow, we should first of all answer the question whether Slovenia is for the policy of Chamberlain or the policy of Churchill. At the same time, we must remember historical alliances and enmities. In my opinion, the right name for Putin is not the new Stalin, but the new Hitler. Comparisons of the relationship in 1939, when Hitler made a pact with Stalin to jointly defeat the decadent West, allow the assumption that Putin is playing the role that Hitler once played. At the same time, we have to ask who is the new Stalin. The author of these lines is not the first to see Putin as a vassal of Communist China. So, the new Stalin would be Xi Jinping at most. But dictators do not listen to criticism and warnings. According to the writer of these lines, Russia should fear its eastern neighbours more than its western neighbours.