By: Davorin Kopše
As we know, the Slovenian Army (SAF) developed from the National Defence Manoeuvring Structure (NDMS) and was called Territorial Defence until the adoption of the new Defence Act in 1994. During the initial development of the SAF and the modernisation of the approach to the development of the defence forces, the responsible politician and especially the then Minister of Defence Janez Janša and his team were very aware of the importance of international relations. In the early 1990s, there was a lot of interest in the international environment for the state and mode of operation of the Slovenian defence system, which already in its infancy successfully resisted the aggression of one of the strongest armies in Europe and won. Many armies around the world analysed the Slovenian War of Independence and finally came to conclusions about a pure military victory, which was based on an excellent assessment of the opponent and their own forces and where the strengths and weaknesses of both sides were clearly extracted to take full advantage of their own forces.
Already at the time of independence, Slovenia recognised the advantage of international integration in general, and there was also a strong intention to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Partnership for Peace
After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the idea was born within NATO to build trust between this association and other countries in Europe and part of Asia in the area previously covered by the Soviet Union. The Partnership for Peace was established. The idea came to life in 1994, when Slovenia also became a member. Later, the Partnership for Peace turned out to give more positive results. In addition to confidence-building, there is also enhanced military cooperation between countries, exchange of experience and joint exercises. It is a kind of waiting room for NATO membership, and currently there are 21 countries in this group. After ten years of successful cooperation in the Partnership for Peace, Slovenia has become an equal member of NATO.
The history dates back to 1949, when the union was established by the Washington Treaty. NATO received a kind of counterbalance to the socialist or Eastern bloc six years later, when the Warsaw Pact was established, which was officially called the Warsaw Pact on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance. The Warsaw Pact collapsed after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is no more, and NATO has found a new role and, with its enlargement, has become an even greater guarantor of stability and peace in the world.
Slovenia aspired to join NATO because of the fundamental values of the world it connects, its strategic security aspirations and vital national state interests. In addition to ensuring its own security, each country’s membership contributes to stability and security in Europe and the world.
With NATO membership, the Republic of Slovenia is consolidating its status as a safe country with a low level of business risk and a low share of risky investments. The indirect benefits of membership are also participation in the scientific, technological and information flow of knowledge and experience from the most developed countries, economic cooperation with these countries and others, and above all, of course, cooperation in the military field.
When the Prime Minister answered MPs’ questions at the beginning of the November session of the National Assembly, he briefly mentioned that the government intended to invite US troops to Slovenia and expressed hope that MPs would support this idea. These are supposed to be rotating forces, which means that the United States of America would not have permanent military bases on Slovenian soil, but would only have units in our country that would periodically change and rotate according to the shift system.
The next day, the US embassy announced that the U.S. military was not planning to include Slovenia as part of the new relocation of forces within Europe, as reported by the media, but it should be noted that this is just the beginning – an initiative. It should be emphasised that such changes never happen in a short time. Prime Minister Janez Janša is well aware of what he is saying and that such issues need to be addressed gradually. Plans always come after an idea.
Studies have shown that about 40 percent of the U.S. military can be stationed in Europe on a rotating system, meaning 20,000 to 25,000 troops. In order to ensure adequate military effectiveness, other forces must necessarily be developmental and be a pillar of action. There were many expert discussions and conclusions about this, which also included an assessment of the financial consequences and the impact of the accommodation of entire families of members of the army. For one column, a comprehensive treatment of this material would certainly be too extensive.
Installation of rotating military units and logistics
With their arrival, the rotating units of the US Army would contribute to the new recognition of Slovenia as a reliable partner and a safe environment. The next big gain is the fact that the U.S. military requires the best conditions for its installation, which it also pays fairly. In addition, the American soldier is also known for their personal consumption. Perhaps this is economically negligible in view of the number of soldiers that the USA might send to Slovenia, but in this respect the personal connection and friendship of Slovenian and American soldiers is certainly not negligible. This brings experience and knowledge on an individual level.
The presence of U.S. military units is also important in a broader security sense. In short, we can say that a country where U.S. military forces have their units is considered safer. NATO’s topographic role is therefore further strengthened. It is not just about the security provided by the forces present, it is also about the global security of those forces and thus the host country.
Also in the context of considering the possible deployment of rotating forces of the US Army, we can speak of the geostrategic position of Slovenia. It is not only about the functioning of these forces and their availability, but also about the behaviour and awareness of the world that Slovenia is a safer country in this regard. When the United States provides security for its own forces, it also provides security in the area of installation. Possible global crisis hotspots in the future (trends are not optimistic) are close to Slovenia, which may worry us due to many influences. It is not only a direct threat of war, but also an impact on economic flows and new waves of migration to the promised west, to which Slovenia belongs.
In military missions, be they peace-making, peace-building and peace-keeping, active participants have the opportunity to take a short break from their place of operation during the mission itself, with no practice of going to home country. In the case of the deployment of American units in Slovenia, they would certainly more often decide to visit our places if they knew that their colleagues were here and thus something domestic. They are often joined in these cases by their families, and all of them later spread the good word about the experiences and opportunities offered by the country under Triglav and under the open sky.
Referendum on investments in the SAF
In view of all the above, we can see how important international cooperation in the military field is. There is no cooperation, or it is severely curtailed if the systems are poorly maintained. As in all other areas, without maintenance and investment, the military system does not work. In recent years, we have also received proof of this in the Slovenian Armed Forces, which has been assessed negatively according to international standards for several consecutive years. This was due to the policies of governments at the time, which did not allocate sufficient resources to the military to ensure the implementation of their mission. This weakens Slovenia’s security position and the country’s international reputation. All the gains brought about by integrations are also weakening, as with poor equipment and unsuitable conditions the army cannot contribute the expected share, which also reduces the trust of partners.
The parliamentary party Levica does not understand or does not want to understand this. After the approval of the Investment in the Slovenian Army Act, with the support of other opposition parties, with the exception of the Slovenian National Party, Levica decided to collect signatures for a referendum to repeal this decision. By doing so, they prove once again that they do not understand the importance of investment. They do not even understand these in an economy where they are only interested in spending and distributing. The transfer to the military field is already a hyper science for them.
So what does Levica do when it opposes investing in the Slovenian Army and its equipment? In a broader sense, it inhibits all the above-mentioned advantages that a successful army brings in international connections and weakens the country’s international reputation. It also proves that it does not care about the Slovenian soldier, whose safety and life depends on the quality and reliability of the equipment at his disposal. If the referendum succeeds, it would also prevent the acquisition of funds with which the Slovenian Army participates in many rescue operations in the mountains, transports victims and intervenes in the event of natural disasters.
The army is therefore not a bad thing, as Levica and the associated political parties of the Coalition of the Constitutional Arc (KUL), whose main value is media inflation, are trying to present to us. The military brings peace, coexistence, strong friendships, alliances and a promising look to the future.
The military salute of the Slovenian Army begins with the commander’s question: “For whom?” The answer from the line reads: “For Slovenia!”