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.

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Turf War

Poor Czechs. They can’t even have a proper senior political turf war without those pesky Slovenians beating them to it. Imagine being in charge of Czechia’s foreign policy, seething over another one of your president’s solo trips to badlands and mulling a response, only to see your counterpart in Ljubljana do the exact same fucking thing, an hour earlier.

Miro beating Tomáš by an hour and half

This is broadly what happened to Czech FM Tomáš Petříček while he was looking for ways to undo the damage president Miloš Zeman did during his visit to Belgrade where he said that he will push for de-recognition of Kosovo by Czechia. However, Zeman wasn’t the only president of a Central European country facing pushback from his foreign minister that day. Cue Borut Pahor. Obviously.

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Pro-Moscow Post-Communists Running EU And NATO, Apparently

To say that Slovenian government was caught off-guard by the Ukraine crisis is an understatement. It has, in fact, provided ample proof that for a while now Slovenian top-level diplomacy is running on empty, moving only on inertia of past successes, relatively able (but limited in scope and reach) middle magament and occasional strokes of luck.

Janez Janša addressing the EPP Dublin Summit (source)

While Karl Erjavec and his simpleton-diplomacy were taken apart on this blog already, the man is by no means alone in this enterprise.

Roman Jakič and the Sochi controversy

The embattled defence minister Roman Jakič found himself in a middle of a controversy at the beginning of all of this when he travelled to Sochi as head of the Slovenian Paralympic team. Namely, Jakič’s son Gal Jakič is the only Slovenian contestant in Winter Paralympics and Roman Jakič spends inhumane amounts of time and energy to be there for his kid who became disabled some years ago through no fault of his own and help him partake in various sporting events. For that, Roman Jakič deserves all the praise in this world.

The problem of course arises when the super-dad happens to be a defence minister of a country whose official position is that Ukraine’s territorial integrity was violated by the very country which is hosting the Paralympic games. A visiting defence minister in whatever capacity he may be, just might send the wrong signal. To his credit, Jakič (who is under criminal investigation for his role in the Stožice project and is getting a lot of political flak over it) tried very hard to show that the office he holds has nothing to do with his being in Sochi. He even took annual leave and (apparently) paid the cost of the trip out of his own pocket. But senior public officials do not hold office from nine to five. A defence minister is a defence minister 24/7 and neither rain not sleet nor snow can change that. So, technically, Slovenia, a NATO member, has a senior government official present in Russia. Go figure.

Erjavec strikes again

But the woes of Roman Jakič pale in comparison with Erjavec digging an ever deeper hole for himself. Thursday last, while sparring with Dimitrij Rupel on national television (and trumping him in the process), he tried to spin his “Slovenia should mediate between EU and Russia” fuck-up. Admittedly, he did a half-decent job although no-one really believed him. But hey, he tried (for the record, he used the old they-only-published-a-part-of-my-statement gambit). OK, so he overdid it when he told the audience that US Secretary of State John Kerry told him his initiative was “subtle”. Really? Was Karl’s sarcasm detector off-line or what?

Be that as it may, all that was water under the bridge when Erjavec, foreign minister of a NATO and EU member, managed to say that Slovenia supports territorial integrity of Ukraine and conceded in the same sentence that Crimea will in all likelihood become part of Russia. Get it?

I mean, even though Erjavec most likely told what everyone else was thinking, a EU foreign minister simply does not say things like that. Such statements show Russians they’ve achieved what they wanted, namely to create a “new reality on the ground” and that the West is intimately apparently pondering telling Ukrainians to simply go along with it. This translates into EU a) not giving a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys about borders in general, opening up a plethora of highly unwelcome scenarios all across the continent, most likely in the Balkans and b) apparently forgot the 1938 Munich lessons.

Janša criticises Merkel

The above, however, is nothing, and I mean nothing compared to the address by Janez Janša at the EPP Summit in Dublin the other day. Namely the nominal leader of the Slovenian opposition single-handedly discovered there are “post-communist and pro-Moscow forces at the head of EU and NATO member state” and added that all of this could be avoided if only Georgia and Ukraine were admitted to NATO in 2008.

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is warmongering and paranoia of the first order. Admittedly, it takes a lot of guts to go up there and tell Auntie Angela she fucked up. Because it was her who blocked NATO enlargement to include Ukraine and Georgia. And today she’s (apparently) the only foreign leader Vladimit Putin will talk to with some sort of frankness. Which makes her a pro-Moscow element. Not to mention the fact that outgoing president of European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso was a Maoist in his student years. Talk about post-communists running the EU. The question therefore is, did Janša really mean what he said or is he getting just more and more desperate and is running short on enemies to throw into the fire, supplementing them with friends?

The reality (that be the thing Janša is working very hard to ignore) of course is that NATO could very well have found itself in the middle of a shooting war with Russia in August 2008 had Georgia been invited to the alliance some months before and NATO membership of Ukraine would probably only have sped up the events that are unfolding today. But what you see on the video above is vintage Janša. The only difference between that and the version we get at home are levels of cynicism (apparently beyond him in English) and occasional graphs depicting the communist conspiracy.

And post-communists, as we all know, are everywhere. Even in the EPP, apparently. One of them, a proud platoon leader of a 1977 Yugoslav military march commemorating Marshal Tito, addressed the Dublin Summit. But, admittedly, he’s not running a EU/NATO member state. Not anymore, that is.

Karl Erjavec And The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Pengovsky didn’t write up the fan-hitting-shit-storm that is Ukraine and the Russian muscle-flexing/military intervention mostly because there’s little I can tell you that transcends a Tom Clancy novel. Indeed, the situation went from bad to worse in a matter of days suggesting Moscow executed a well thought-out plan that caught the west more or less with its pants down. Come ti think of it, it sounds very much like a Tom Clancy novel.

SuperKarl to the rescue

But what I can tell you is that Ukraine today is not Bosnia. It is not even Georgia. In fact, it is not even Kosovo although one might reasonably expect Moscow to invoke some perversion of the “Kosovo argument“, i.e. “people should be free to decide in which country they want to live”. Again, the way Russian military occupied key installations in Crimea did bear some similarities to their dash for Priština airport (off-topic: singer James Blunt apparently prevented outbreak of WWIII in Kosovo in 1999). But earlier today Slovenian foreign minister Karl Erjavec stunned the international community Slovenia by suggestion this sorry little excuse for a country could act as an intermediary between Moscow and the EU, supposedly because of our good relations with the Russkies.

Now, that Russians kind of like Slovenia is more or less true. Seeing themselves as Slavic mother-nation, the Russians apparently do have a soft spot for Slovenians, the Western-most Slavic nation. But thinking this goes beyond a tap-on-the-back and yes-we’ll-come-for-vacations is just plain stupid. In fact, this coming from Karl Erjavec, the very same politician who couldn’t be bothered to find a candidate for minister of health for three months is simply preposterous.

The Ukrainian clusterfuck did not come out of the blue. As this piece by The Indepentent shows, there’s a lot of history behind it. And history is also what needs to be taken into account when reading reactions by some other European nations. Poland and Russia, for example, have so much history and bad blood between them that Warsaw must be more than just slightly edgy. A muted Polish response is, therefore, understandable. Finland, too, has historical reasons to feel nervous at the prospect of a belligerent Russia. Latvia, on the other hand, decided to call spade a spade, but mostly for the same reasons. Estonia, for example, experienced Russian wrath fairly recently and their no-nonsese position makes sense, as well.

As for Slovenia, well, our latest contribution to Russo-Slovenian relations was President Borut Pahor waving the flag at the Sochi Olympics and feeling bummed at the prospect of having to ice-skate for ten hours (he promised to do an hour for every goal Slovenian hockey players score in Sochi). He skipped the opening ceremony, though, supposedly on account of the ice-storm that hit Slovenia about that time. Point being that short of an occasional tete-a-tete, the scope of political relations with the Russian Federation is, well, lacking. Unexceptional, at best. In fact, the President has yet to comment on the situation in the Ukraine. So does the office of the Prime Minister. Even the ministry of Foreign Affairs, which admittedly has been keeping a close eye on the situation for some tine now, did not go beyond “everyone should respect territorial integrity of Ukraine” clause.

And yet, here we are, with the foreign minister thinking he can find a solution, if only people were willing to listen. In fact, what we have here is a clear demonstration of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The less you know, the more you think you’ve got thing under control. And let’s be honest, Erjavec passes as minister of foreign affairs only as long as he reads off the script. Which is what he was doing most of the time since he landed the job under the Janša 2.0 administration.

But now, he suddenly got ideas. And is making an utter fool of himself and of his country, all on account of cheap PR stunts which add to his airtime but take away what little standing this country has left internationally. What the fuck did he expect? That Obama and Merkel will rush to a conference-call with him, to coordinate their next move? And what is this shit about Ljubljana being a go-between between Brussels and Moscow? Did Slovenia leave the EU and pengovsky didn’t get the memo?

I mean, the only thing more stupid than Erjavec’s little PR stunt are attempts by local EPP outposts to paint Vlad Putin as a rabid left-winger and then draw parallels between him and Slovenian left-wing (as sorry as it is). That, too, is nothing more than the inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.