A diplomatic row is brewing between Ukraine and Croatia. The reason is the harsh statements of Croatian President Zoran Milanovic. In a few words, the head of state managed to outline his position on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict regularly predicted by the West, condemn the actions of the United States and appease the local electorate. In Kiev, Milanovich’s words were taken painfully, and we figured out how far they could lead.
Croatian Ambassador to Ukraine Anica Dzhamich was called “on the carpet” to the local Foreign Ministry. The reason is the statements that suddenly sounded from the lips of the Croatian President Zoran Milanovic. Commenting on the increase in activity by Western powers in connection with the alleged Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory, the head of state stressed that his country would not take part in possible hostilities.
“I see NATO statements about increasing its presence, about sending reconnaissance ships. Not only will Croatia not send troops, but in the event of an escalation, it will withdraw every single soldier. I promise you this, ”Milanovic said on television.
In itself a harmless statement, the Croatian president decided to strengthen, declaring an extreme degree of corruption in Ukraine and that this country has no place in the North Atlantic alliance.
The Ukrainian side reacted with lightning speed: Milanovic found himself on the list of the Peacemaker resource as a pro-Russian politician, a protest was expressed to Ambassador Dzhamich, and an apology was demanded from the instigator of the scandal.
“The Croatian President has shown his dismissive attitude and ingratitude for the help that Ukraine and Ukrainians provided to Croatia during its struggle for independence, as well as in the fight against devastating fires in the past,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in an official statement. “But we are sure that this ingratitude is his personal trait and does not extend to the Croatian people, with whom we are united by friendship and mutual respect.”
Milanovic, who has been in office since 2020, did not apologize as expected. Opponents of the Ukrainian authorities spoke with predictable pleasure about discord in NATO, while the Croatian government tried to soften the situation. In particular, Croatian Prime Minister Andrei Plenkovic said that he did not understand at all what the president was talking about.
“At first I thought that this was some kind of briefing and that it was some kind of Russian official. I don’t know what kind of soldiers he (Milanovich) is thinking about, but I have been there (in Ukraine) twice, and our military is not there, ”the head of the Cabinet emphasized.
And this is where the fun begins in a scandalous situation. Plenkovic’s words could be written off only as an attempt to get out of a difficult situation while saving face, but the bottom line is that Milanovic’s words are really hard to understand. The President threatens to “withdraw” all Croatian soldiers, while such a step, in principle, is not even forbidden to him by anyone.
The armed forces of NATO are divided into “combined”, that is, transferred to the disposal of the Alliance, and those that continue to be under national subordination. The joint armed forces include contingents from far from all member countries of the bloc, and, in particular, the Croatian military is not there. So Milanovic in this case acted as the “elusive Joe”, in which, in general, no one needs even without his words: there really is no one to recall him. Moreover,
Was the President wrong? Hardly, since the part of his speech about the Croatian military was obviously not the most important. Milanovic specifically mentioned that he did not agree with the actions of the administration of US President Joe Biden, which is actively promoting the anti-Russian agenda. And these words are an obvious signal both to Washington, which, however, is no stranger to the discontent of its European partners, and to the local electorate.
Poor Croatia, which gives more than one and a half percent of its GDP as a membership fee, is not the most reliable member of NATO: according to polls, about 20% (+/- a few percent of the error) of the inhabitants of the republic are in favor of staying in the Alliance, the rest consider it senseless spending and risk. Milanovic, who in three years will still have the opportunity to put forward his candidacy for the post of head of state,
Finally, we should not forget that Croatia is a parliamentary republic, and despite the resonance produced by the president’s words, the position of the Cabinet and deputies is much more important.
As for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, one can understand its sharp reaction: the topic of the impending “Russian threat” needs to be “warmed up”, and Milanovich’s speech in this case became a convenient pretext. All these squabbles will not affect the situation “on the ground”, hardly anyone will listen to Croatia on the issue of expanding the Alliance, but the media effect can be long-term.
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