Two weeks into her term in office, Tanja Fajon is faced with an important test of her foreign policy chops. And not in a way she was (probably) hoping for. An open letter advocating a new, purportedly more sensible approach on Ukraine made its way into the media. The letter was signed by eighteen people of varying importance. Most of them are (or were) academics, some of them are regular TV pundits, still others are political has-beens, looking to reclaim some of the old fame.
In all honesty, the text would have probably gone the way of various other letters and petitions that float around in Muddy Hollows at any given time, were it not for the fact that former presidents Milan Kučan and Danilo Türk attached their signatures. Which seemed to kind of complicate things. At least for Tanja Fajon and PM Robert Golob.
The letter was drafted by Aurelio Juri, a fomer SD MP who had long since sunk into semi-obscurity, at least on a national level. But the dude did have some clout back in the day. So it wasn’t as if he was out of his depth in writing the letter to begin with.
Super weird, super soon
Sure enough, the text opens by condemning Russian aggression and the war crimes committed against Ukraine and its people. In this, it name-checks Vladimir Putin, just to make it clear that the authors understand who is the aggressor here.
But in the very next paragraph, the letter starts veering into a super-weird, convoluted and quite self-serving argumentation about how the war in Ukraine has gone on long enough and that it is time to put an end to the hostilities.
Which, you know, fair. The only problem is that the text puts the onus of stopping the hostilities on … checks notes… Ukraine and the EU. Specifically, the new foreign minister of Muddy Hollows, Tanja Fajon.
Enter the presidents
Careful observers did not miss the fact Tanja Fajon did some unprompted equivocating on Russian aggression during her confirmation hearing. Maybe she was avoiding the issue. Maybe, she just wanted to wait until she gets the full picture. Or maybe she is having actual doubts.
Regardless, her non-position position was noticed by the authors of the letter, too. And they jumped at the opportunity to take the old “whatever shit Russia is doing, America did long time ago and should be punished for all eternity for it” position. Basically, it is a version of the Yugoslav non-aligned position, but without Tito, Yugoslavia or indeed the non-aligned status.
If it weren’t for the two ex-presidents, foreign minister Fajon could safely ignore the letter. As things stand, however, she will likely have to say something. And sooner rather than later.
Luckily for her, the Moscow Maniac made the choice as easy as possible (insofar as she might have had doubts about Slovenian position on Ukraine in the first place). Namely, the eighteen people who put their names on the letter came to accept the bullshit argument that Russia was provoked into a shooting war by NATO expansion. And not by, say, imperial delusions of Vladimir Putin.
Not only was NATO expansion in Russian vicinity not a thing in almost two decades. Vova made that a further moot point the other day, when he started babbling about Peter the Great and “reclaiming land that was once Russian already”.
This little nugget helpfully came out a mere day after the letter addressed to Fajon. It may or may not have contributed to the fact that neither ex-president has expanded on the letter. Apparently, they pointedly refused to do so. Perhaps pengovsky is reading too much into this, but maybe the two elder statesmen realised they mistimed their moves and want as little said of the whole matter as possible.
Aurelio Juri, the author of the original draft, however, refuses to go gently into the good night. Misreading the (intentionally provocative) call by former Polish defence and foreign minister Radek Sikorski for Poland to allow US nuclear weapons on its soil, Juri – if you’ll excuse the pun – soiled his pants and called for outright surrender.
Specifically, the former SD MP only sees two options: either backing Ukraine all the way, up to and including a nuclear exchange, or sacrificing parts of Ukraine to Russia and salvage whatever can be salvaged.
Which is both horribly patronising and spineless at the same time. Patronising, because it assumes the fate of Ukraine can only be decided by the “big players”. Even though Ukraine in the largest European country, but yeah. Also patronising, because it denies the people of Ukraine any sort of agency to decide their own fate.
And spineless, because the moment someone mentions nuclear weapons, the cold-war-bred non-aligned politicians reflexively go into panic mode and start running around, waving hands. As if the Moscow Maniac has not been rattling his nuclear sabre from Day One of his “three-day special operation in Ukraine”.
Poking the bear
And just for the record, what Radek Sikorski was saying is that by invading Ukraine, Russia voided is 1994 agreement with the West on security guarantees for Ukraine. as well as its 1997 deal on relations with NATO.
The latter deal stipulated no permanent NATO bases in new member states and – most importantly – no nuclear installations either. The former deal famously guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity in exchange for the country giving up its nuclear arsenal.
With both deals out the window, Sikorski argues, there is nothing preventing Poland from asking the US if they would consider having a nuclear silo or two on Polish or Ukrainian territory. You know, just to poke the bear in the eye.
Not that the US would go for that any time soon, but you never know.
Be that as it may, the most unproductive theme that comes across from the letter is the incessant need to understand and accommodate Russia. Similarly to above, this is a hopelessly naive and pretentious notion, at the same time.
Pretentious, because it assumes that it is within the EU/NATO power to give Russia something that isn’t theirs to give. And naive, because it assumes that the war is the result of a lack of communication. Further to that, this lack of communication is somehow the fault of the West and the onus of re-establishing said communication is somehow entirely on the EU (and, again pretentiously, on Tanja Fajon).
But the reality of it is, that the communication was loud and clear from the get-go. In fact, Putin’s objectives are obvious, well defined and recognised for the better part of the decade, if not more.
“Understanding Russia” in this context means understanding aggression and territorial expansion. It means understanding election interference. Assassinations on foreign soil. It means understanding imprisoned journalists and murdered opposition leaders. And the other way around. It also means understanding people falling off their fifth-floor balconies and financing far-right nativist anti-EU parties. Understanding Russia means understanding Brexit, Viktor Orban and Donald fucking Trump.
So, yeah. If Tanja Fajon has half the foreign policy chops she claims to have, she should have no real problem repudiating the letter. At the very least she can reiterate Slovenian support for the pan-EU position on Ukraine and thus side-step the letter. Even if it was a long-time SD member who drafted the letter.
EDIT: Just as pengovsky published this post, another letter to Fajon hit the media circuit. This one squarely opposed to the appeasing tone of the initial letter addressed to the foreign minister.
Pengovsky continues to have his doubts over the effect such letters tend to have. But it does bear to note that authors of the second letter are of much more varied political and social backgrounds. Perhaps that is indicative of the general support for the Ukrainian cause in Slovenia.