Ukraine War Forces Slovenian Politics To Think Foreign Policy Thoughts

In all honesty, it is a bit self-serving to try and look at Russian war against Ukraine through the lens of Muddy Hollows and its political cesspool. But seeing as this is an utterly self-serving blog, pengovsky will go right ahead. PM Janša, on the other hand, will stay put, as the Russian aggression preempted his photo-op in Kyiv planned for today.

Flags if Ukraine in the government district in Ljubljana.
Ukrainian flags in the government district in Ljubljana (source)

This, incidentally, should make the Glorious Leader available for a court-date in a defamation case against him. But he’ll probably claim an emergency NatSec Council meeting or something like that. And for once, he may not be lying through his teeth to get out of a court date.

To be fair, the Janša government is making all the right noises in the hours and days of the aggression, albeit after a sluggish start. The PM took the lead in directing the response, followed closely by (dare we think it?) statesman-like positions by president Pahor.

Curiously absent from the fray, however, is foreign minister Anže Logar. It could be that he is too busy doing the actual diplomatic footwork, or that he knows better than to steal the limelight from the boss.

Holding the line

Nevertheless, positions by the Slovenian ministry of foreign affairs are reassuringly in line with overall EU and NATO positions and show that, at least for the moment, the pro-Russian faction within the ministry is taking a back seat.

Which brings us to the first utterly Slovenian take on all of this. Namely, the war is a chance for the Janša administration to patch things up with the US.

Both readers will remember how Janša lost his shit when Joe Biden won the 2020 US presidential election. His shilling for Viktor Orban didn’t help his (and by extent, Slovenian) standing in Brussels and Washington, either.

like 2020 never happened

But with feces hitting the oscillator, the Glorious Leader eventually decided that waiting for the cue from his Lórd Protectór was no longer an option. He is now happily retweeting Joe Biden, Anthony Blinken, EU liberal politicians and the likes. It is as if November 2020 and his general Trump-fanboi shtick never happened.

Incidentally, Orban’s vacillating and foot-dragging didn’t go unnoticed. And since both men value loyalty above competence, this split in timing may have actual consequences for Janša – Orbán relationship down the road.

Nevertheless, on the home front (ahem), Janša resorts to the same Orbanesque tactics we’ve come to expect of him. Eviscerating the media for lacklustre reporting and attacking the opposition for allegedly not falling in line.

the flaccid bull of kozjansko

But while positions of the opposition parties do require some attention and context, perhaps the most… interesting… response came from minister of economy and Konkretno party boss, Zdravko Počivalšek.

The self-described Bull of Kozjansko could only muster a very flaccid tweet of concern. It is as if Slovenian business interests in Russia made him forget to take his spine out of the cupboard.

Don’t get me wrong, with the harsh sanctions looming, Slovenian business interests in Russia will definitely take a hit. As will Russian business and financial interests in Slovenia. And it should be interesting to see what will happen to all those luxury real estate deals Russian money closed in Muddy Hollows over the years.

But it was only yesterday when this self-styled “tell it like it is” kind of guytold the anti-graft commission he doesn’t give a flying fuck about their ruling on his corrupt behaviour at the start of the pandemic, Suddenly, Počivalšek is all meek and soft in the knees when actual tough guys are in play.

opposition Ukraine dilemmas

That said, Zdravko Počivalšek is not the only one who has had a tough 48 hours thinking about their response. A lot of people were nervously looking at opposition parties, waiting for their take on the issue. And for good reason.

First, there is the fact that foreign policy is rarely a key election issue. In Slovenia and otherwise. More to the point, Slovenian foreign policy was more or less on autopilot since the economic meltdown of 2010s, with very few ideas and initiatives of its own.

And when those ideas did emerge, they were at best embarrassing, and at worst downright harmful. This was starting to change somewhat with the Šarec administration in 2018 when Miro Cerar took over as foreign minister, but things were moving at a glacial pace.

So, it is not exactly as if there is a trove of institutional knowledge and experience for opposition parties to rely on. However, the real conundrum is something much more disturbing. Namely, for a variety of reasons, some not entirely rational, there is quite some overlap between supporters of opposition parties and any combination of anti-NATO/anti-American/pro-Putin sentiment.

Which is why with the upcoming election exactly two months away, Russian war against Ukraine is not really an issue any of them were keen taking a position on.

finding an angle

Which is probably why some of them are bending over backwards to condemn the aggression from a specific angle. Alenka Bratušek’s SAB, for example, really tried to make lemonade out of lemons by pointing out that war is bad for business.

This is of course true, although pengovsky is obliged to mention that Ferengi Rules of Acquisition number 34 and 35 apply equally, depending on your point of view.

More importantly, however, three other parties have put out definitive statements condemning Russian aggression. SD, LMŠ and Robert Golob’s Freedom Movement party were unequivocal in their repudiation of the attack against Ukraine. Which is, of course, morally correct, but also a gamble politically.

Of the three, the reaction by LMŠ is the most interesting. In fact, there were multiple reactions, all with the same basic point. This messaging overkill seems to have been aimed at rebranding the LMŠ.

The party was labeled ignorant of foreign and European affairs ever since Marjan Šarec pointedly refused to address the European Parliament as PM back in 2019. They clearly saw this as an opportunity to improve on their record.

levica fucks up

The one party which did not improve their record was Levica. It took Luka Mesec’s party an entire day to cobble up a response. And in a true collectivist fashion, it was a ten-point statement, each clearly designed to mollify a specific faction within the party. The overall effect, obviously, is that no-one can really be satisfied with Levica’s position. Least of all, its voters.

Levica kind of managed to condemn the Russian aggression, without using the actual words. But in doing so, they managed to differentiate between Ukraine and the two breakaway regions, tacitly nodding to the partition of Ukraine. Now, maybe they didn’t intend to say that, but the unmistakable effect is exactly that. Oops.

Also, saying in Point 8 that “NATO in Ukraine is part of the problem”, when NATO very pointedly is not in Ukraine, is a bit of a #wtf moment. Itshows that they are acting on presumptions which are not wholly tethered in reality. And while calls for peaceful resolution of the conflict and humanitarian aid are welcome, the whole thing comes across as a badly executed balancing act rather than a coherent position.

a week is a long time in politics

Pengovsky is fond of Harold Wilson’s quip about a week being a long time in politics. Today, statements condemning the war Russia is waging against Ukraine seem not only morally right, but also politically expedient. But if this conflict drags on and the people in the EU start feeling its effect, it will be interesting to see if this resolve by Slovenian political parties holds. Or will the likes of Konkretno and Levica turn out to have placed their bets better.

This is, of course, all very narrow-looking and downright petty. But this is an utterly self-serving blog.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

2 thoughts on “Ukraine War Forces Slovenian Politics To Think Foreign Policy Thoughts”

  1. You have skipped over the NATO imposed no-fly zone over Ukraine, urged on by the glorious leader. It’s the equivalent of: “Let’s show Putin we are no soyboys and rather have a world war over Ukraine in 3, 2, 1, …”

    It’s the barking of a nervous chiuaua, relying on the owner to tuck her safely into her purse if shit hits the fan. It’s the now already well known prudence of the glorious leader as a military commander demanding his army to charge fortified and many times stronger oponent in a densly populated urban area. It’s the strategic thinking capacity which is overstreched by the first question in the next press conference. It’s having no clue whatsoever who you’re dealing with.

  2. He did say that, yes. But it is as you said: it’s not like he has an actual say in anything. He is posturing from a safe distance. What I find remarkable is the speed and ease with which he fell in line.

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