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Thursday, February 22, 2024

The Brigadier’s Mystery

By: Gašper Blažič

There is a first time for everything, and this time I decided to attend the memorial ceremony in Kočevska Reka on the anniversary of the first public facility of the renovated Territorial Defence (TD). On Saturday, December 17th, 2022, Kočevska Reka was almost as snowy as it was 32 years ago, when the president of the then independence government, Lojze Peterle, uttered the famous words that it smelled like the Slovenian army. And interestingly, even on Saturday, there was a strange smell wafting through the National Defence Manoeuvre Structure Park, which is also protected as a monument (although it does not show such an image for now), which made me wonder if it might be the smell of the Slovenian Army.

I went on the journey with a bus organised by the VSO provincial committee for Celje, which made a very long journey from Celje via Laško, Hrastnik, Trbovelj, Zagorje, Trojan, Ljubljana, and Ribnica all the way to Kočevska Reka, a place that only became open to the public in 1990. Before that, together with Gotenica, it was considered the “Cat’s Nest”, where in the vacated area that was once inhabited by the German settlers, the commandment in three words was valid: “Do not ask anything.” There is still a large bunker in that area, a kind of Crystal Peak of the Slovenian republican communist leadership, where they would take refuge in the event of an attack. Well, there was a rumour that this bunker symbolically represented the resistance of Slovenian communists against their Belgrade masters, but the truth was quite different: a special shelter could not be built without the consent or knowledge of Belgrade and the supreme Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz-Tito. It is true that “comrade Matija”, even in 1990, was a grey eminence of the deep state, a kind of communist feudal lord, for whom Belgrade meant less than, for example, to Stane Dolanc, but that does not mean that the communists would have started the project of building the Slovenian state. The TD protection brigade, which for some time was even named after Edvard Kardelj, was primarily intended to protect the republican leadership in the event of an attack by the forces of the Warsaw Pact (after 1968, when the brigade was also created, at that time the entire TD was also created in all Yugoslav republics and provinces as a kind of supplement to the YPA regular army). It is true, however, that quite a few persons came out of the mentioned Kočevje nest, who in May 1990 actively resisted the pre-arranged TD disarmament project. The first among them was Anton Krkovič, whom I managed to meet in person much later. And he never seemed like a politician to me. Not even as a businessman. That is why in 2021 I was surprised by the information that, despite his retirement years, he became a consultant at Gen I, which at that time was led by Robert Golob, the current prime minister, as chairman of the board. And only then did I start to wonder about the so-called “Brigadier’s Mystery”.

But if I stop at Saturday’s event a bit: we wondered at the bus whether Krkovič would attend the event based on the turbocharged event in recent days. As they explained to me, he came to Poljče, but after the event, he went very quickly. His absence was actually the loudest on the scene, but many people were also missing that day: for example, Janez Janša, the Minister of Defence from the time of independence (the SDS Council meeting was held that day), was also absent, the President of the Republic, Borut Pahor, also apologised in a letter sent to the organisers, which was also publicly read. The president of VSO Lojze Peterle, a member of the VSO Presidency Slavko Kmetič, as well as Igor Bavčar and Igor Omerza were present. The main speaker, however, was Jelko Kacin, who was first Deputy Minister of Defence in independence, followed by the Minister of Information. Recently, as before the former LDS Grander Dimitrij Rupel and Igor Bavčar, he has once again brought together with his former colleagues from Demos. It was during the celebration that Slovenia got the news that Krkovič had left the VSO association, where he was even the vice president. According to the Reporter, he intended to meet with Janez Janša in the Kočevska Reka, which did not happen. He was also disturbed by the exposed presence of Jelko Kacin, who was supposed to play an unusual role in the accidental escape of the YPA helicopter pilot Anton Mrlak. But the real reason was probably that he recently felt lonely and isolated in the company of colleagues.

For which there is a fairly valid reason. It was Robert Golob himself who took care of him, when he stated in an interview for Pop TV that it was Krkovič who opened his eyes to how the “other side” thinks. Otherwise, Golob could not have become prime minister – at least that is how he could be understood. After that, the media also published Krkovič’s response, where the words that stood out were how he (still) highly values Golob and his ethics. Which would have sounded bizarre even six months ago, but now, in the time of affairs, even more so. As we know, sympathisers of the Slovenian Spring find it difficult to forgive such transgressions. Although in the very core it is somewhat different from the transfer of Damir Črnčec and also from the recent change of the member of the programme board of RTVS Alenka Gotar.

Why Krkovič decided to accept the role of advisor to Golob in Gen I, probably only the two of them know. However, it is known here that Krkovič was surprisingly honest. With his recent statements, he has put at stake everything he has built over the past three decades, which on the other hand means that at heart he has never been a politician who chooses his words pragmatically. In the current circumstances, praising Golob in front of an audience that is already enraged by the actions of the current government means literally teasing the bull with a red rag. Here, of course, the question arises as to what interests Golob took Krkovič under his wing. Perhaps Golob was adhering to the well-known saying from the Bible about the mentality of the “children of this age” to make friends with the “mammon of crime” (i.e., stolen money) in order to receive them into their dwellings.

However, there is a chance that Golob will survive even the current attempts at discipline by his godfathers. Let’s remember: when Janez Drnovšek led the government, the then President of the Republic Milan Kučan let him know quite a few times that he was the boss. And if the prime minister started a little too much in his own way, the trade unionists started to raise their heads, which was enough for him to calm down his arbitrariness in a few days and everything was in perfect order again. If Golob were to go all the way in his arbitrariness now, he would show that he is completely unintelligent. His fall, however, would not mean the fall of the transitional government, as he would probably be replaced by a new “new face”. Probably someone who would have significantly greater chances of survival. Drnovšek, for example, knew how to lead the game by making others around him fight with each other, as sources from his native Zasavje can tell. He also used this method in the coalition, thus winning as the “third” who wins where two are arguing.

But for Krkovič, the possible fall of Golob would mean going into complete political isolation. As said: spring group hardly forgive such turns. His exit from VSO is understandable on the one hand, but he excluded himself first and foremost. It will be difficult for him to explain how he could become a supporter of the transitional executioner after coming out of prison due to a politically motivated court process, unless there is a loop hidden in this mystery that we cannot see.

As I already mentioned, I have already met and interviewed Krkovič. Personally, I would not ignore him if I met him again – his role in building the Slovenian defence will never get old. But if he wanted to speak publicly about what has been happening to him in the last two years, he would probably have to answer some rather unpleasant questions. I believe he has the courage to do it. And as we know, the future belongs to the brave.


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