The Curious Case of the Croatian Commander-in-Chief
"Bigmouth Strikes Again" - Speaking out of turn on the War in Ukraine
In the run-up to the second invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush famously stated: “you’re either with us, or you’re against us”.
By this point in time, Afghanistan had already been occupied, al-Qaida scattered to the winds, and the Taliban soundly defeated. The neo-conservatives then running US foreign policy were feeling their strength, and had set their sights on their old foe, Saddam Hussein, in order to ‘regime change’ Iraq in the name of “fighting terror”.
It was all bullshit, as we now know. Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 terror attacks, but had everything to do with not stepping aside to allow US Empire to expand to the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, next door to the main Middle Eastern prize: Iran. Hussein would have to go, no matter how many lies needed to be told, no matter how many people would have to be killed.
The occupation of Iraq was not a total success in that the neo-conservatives’ stated goals of bringing liberal democracy to the country had failed. Yet it did succeed in removing an obstacle to expanded US empire. Nevertheless, the neo-conservatives fell out of favour in the eyes of Americans, and their desire to “free the world” in the name of liberal democracy had lost so much credibility that Donald Trump, a man running on a Buchananite foreign policy platform, managed to win the Presidency in 2016, promising to pull US forces out of Afghanistan, and more. The neo-cons went back to their think tanks to lick their wounds and wait for a second chance to strike.
Thanks to the collective mental breakdown experienced by US elites due to the presence of a crass interloper in the White House, the neo-conservatives saw their opportunity to pounce. Shitheads like David Frum and Bill Kristol opportunistically boarded the anti-Trump Train and were rehabilitated by mainstream media, while being embraced by the Deep State, particularly the DoD and the various intelligence agencies. Liberal interventionists gave them their second chance to help formulate and push foreign policies that dovetailed with their own, while their sleeper agents in government (Vicki Nuland) emerged from the shadows to ramp up the policies-in-waiting.
2023 is 2003 again, and if we are not with the USA in its war against Russia in Ukraine, we are therefore relegated to being “against them”, meaning that we are “agents of Putin”. Obvious truths are no defense, as this is a crusade in the name of “liberal democracy and freedom”, but in reality on behalf of US Empire. This is obvious to anyone older than 25 who has at least a decent understanding of what happened one generation ago. Others are paid to ignore this truth, with the most pathetic ignoring it for free.
Croatian President Zoran Milanovic: The Golden Boy
My tiny country has played little role in the war in Ukraine, but the debate surrounding it has been front and centre in the news since it was launched almost a year ago.
Croatians by and large sympathize with the Ukrainians, seeing their fight in similar terms to that of their own war for independence back in the 1990s, not to mention that the original Croatian state in the medieval era, White Croatia, is located in today’s Western Ukraine. To deepen this sympathy, there is a natural aversion to Russia due to its strong historical and cultural ties to Serbia, the land from which the occupation of 1/3rd of Croatia sprung forth from in 1991. Serbs are viewed (with justification) as being Russia’s key Balkan proxy. As much of the Serbian political establishment was balls-deep in the occupation of Croatia during the war (with many active in fighting, some leading paramilitary units, and their own President agitating on occupied soil, insisting that it would ‘never be returned’ to Croatian rule), a Russian defeat is seen as cementing Croatia’s existence in its current borders, dissolving what remains of the threat posed to it.
At the same time, others are taking a longer view as to what an American victory in Ukraine would really mean: one of these people is our current President, Zoran Milanovic.
Zoran Milanovic (known as “Zoki”) is the product of the “Golden Generation”, the children of the Communist elite in Yugoslavia. For them life was easy: their path was set from birth, provided that their mother or father didn’t run afoul of the Party. They would always have a nice house or government-assigned apartment, would get into the best schools, and have the best jobs waiting for them on the other side.
Zoran was no different. His grandfather was a WW2 hero, fighting on the Communist Partizan side against the Fascists, and his own father was a well-respected economist. Zoran spent the years during the war in Croatia in diplomacy as part of an OSCE mission preserving the peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. He entered politics at the end of that decade as a member of the SDP (Soc-Dems, the remnants of the old Communist Party of Croatia), and quickly rose up the ranks to become its leader. In 2011 he became Premier of Croatia, governing largely as a standard fare social-democract, in the good graces of Brussels and Washington.
In 2016 he began to go somewhat off-script, refusing to play the “nice liberal” role that had been expected of him. Always viewed as haughty and arrogant, he began to criticize other ex-Yugoslav states for their actions, particularly Bosnia-Hercegovina regarding its political treatment of its Croatian population. Nevertheless, his party lost the election that year, and he stepped down from the leadership of the SDP to go into consulting.
Always a fan of the limelight, Zoki ran for President of Croatia in 2019 against Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, a conservative nationalist and former Assistant Secretary-General of NATO. To the surprise of many, he defeated the very popular President, and most Croatians expected him to return to form: the lecturing liberal.
To add to his surprise victory, Zoki took a markedly-populist turn, adopting many positions that have long been the preserve of the conservative/nationalist right. Foremost among them has been his loud, vocal support for Croatian rights in neighbouring Bosnia and Hercegovina, which we won’t go into now due to the severe complexity of that situation. Buttressing his populism, he has lavished praise on Croatia’s first President, Franjo Tudjman, a man seen in western liberal circles as a retrograde character, some of them going as far as to accuse him of being a war criminal. In short order thanks to these and other positions that he has staked out, Zoki has managed to win over a large segment of the Catholic and/or nationalist voting bloc in the country.
Some remain suspicious of his intentions, fearing that this might be an act to somehow ‘hurt’ Croatia, implying that he is either an unreconstructed communist donning a democratic mask, or an unrepentant Yugoslav purposely painting Croatia as a reactionary, nationalist state in order to invite sanction from Brussels and beyond.
Nowhere have these suspicions found more fertile ground than in his ongoing commentary regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where he has gone against the received wisdom, to the consternation of many.
Bigmouth Strikes Again
Since the beginning of this conflict, Milanovic has asserted two ideas: 1) this isn’t our (Croatia’s) war and b) Russia will be victorious one way or another, as it is an existential conflict for them, unlike it is for the West. The Presidency in Croatia is almost entirely ceremonial, except for the fact that the office holder is the Commander-in-Chief of the Croatian Armed Forces. Executive power is vested in the position of the Premier, who at present is Brussels’ favourite Andrej Plenkovic, of the centre-right HDZ. Unlike Milanovic, Plenkovic has chosen not to rock the boat on issue of the war in Ukraine, holding firm to the prevailing line coming out of Brussels.
OTOH, Milanovic has continuously stuck his neck out with his various declarations to the media, possibly due to concluding that an almost-entirely ceremonial role allows him the privilege of doing so. More on this below.
Zoki enraged supporters of Ukraine this past week by not only saying that the West (read: USA and UK) have been provoking Russia for years now, but that Kosovo was stolen from Serbia! I’ll now translate his words from a few sources in Croatia media.
Index (and others):
We cannot and will not be dragged into total submission to foreign interests in which we have zero influence. I see that the head of NATO is in South Korea and Japan. I’ve known that man for twenty years now and he does not represent me nor my country over there. That part of the world has nothing to do with NATO, but it is in China’s neighbourhood. Things are happening there in which we have no say, (and no one asks us anyway), but that could draw us in with deep obligations rather quickly.
We are utterly dependent on others’ ambitions and plans, and not just regarding Ukraine.
Some in EU Parliament are discussing the dismemberment of Russia - that is wildly inappropriate. Even us and the Serbs never hated one another this much! This is madness, best distanced from, otherwise you will get caught up in it too.
What is the objective of this war? A war against a nuclear power fighting in another country? Is there even a conventional way to defeat such a country? Who is paying the price for this war? Europe is. The USA is paying the least price.
The Russians? This is their Mexico….or Canada if you will. This is real and dangerous.
From 2014 to 2022 we have been watching how the West has provoked Russia into launching this war. The war was launched. After almost one year, we are now talking about sending tanks. Not a single American tank will go to Ukraine this year. We will, however, send all the German tanks, and they will meet the same fate as those sent earlier. A Polish MP demands that Russia be partitioned, but Russia hasn’t attacked Poland, nor will it, as it is not strong enough to do so.
What we as the West are doing is collectively immoral. German tanks will only further unite Russia and its peoples…..and the same goes for China too. My task is for us to avoid that, so that we are not a circus of poodles. Any participation in such a conflict would be deadly. Do you think I am a Russian agent? I am not the one who handed over Agrokor (Croatia’s largest company) to the Russians (signed off by current Premier and Brussels’ darling, Plenkovic).
Responding to media accusing him of being a Russian agent:
(EU officials) Borrell, Mogherini, and some media are trying to turn Croatia into a poodle. You must understand that Serbia and Russia are not the same. This is a painful and dangerous truth. We (the collective West) annexed Kosovo. We and the international community. It was taken from Serbia. Who did it if not us? Didn’t we recognize Kosovo? It wasn’t an annexation, it was an outright theft. What’s the word for it? Extraction. This isn’t a question of just Kosovo, but of the entire concept as a whole.
Crimea will never again be a part of Ukraine. Croatia will denounce Russian aggression and send humanitarian aid, but will not be a party to this conflict. Russia is a very dangerous country and you people don’t understand anything. You compare these hillbilly Serbs who rebelled against us with a global nuclear superpower.
We are entering deeper into a conflict with a superpower. Do you understand how they end or lose a war? With the use of nuclear weapons. Via insane emotions and hatred, Europe is entering into something that it cannot handle nor will it be able to handle.
The Baltic States pathologically hate the Russians more than we ever did the Serbs. German tanks in Russia? Good luck. Good luck with that.
When asked about aid to Ukraine so far:
This isn’t aid (from the West). These are crumbs. We need to push them to the negotiating table. 300,000 Ukrainians must die, it seems. My heart aches while I watch this. Those that are pushing for them to die do it from the safety of cities that will never be bombed out. This is Armageddon.
The shitlib (and parts of the conservative) media in Croatia went ape-shit, with Jutarnji List reporting that “Serbian media is in ecstasy”.
Russian media focused on how Zoki declared the collective West to be acting in an ‘immoral fashion’.
A Croatian journalist challenged Zoki on his views, and Zoki replied: “You’re not a journalist. You’re a political agitator.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry asked him a pointed question: “Croatia heroically defended itself against aggression to protect its independence. Has Milanovic forgotten that?”
Zoki has staked out a realist position that is not all that popular domestically nor in the West as a hole. This has earned him the enmity of many, including the Ukrainian website ‘Myrotvorets’ (Peacemaker), which had previously added him to their quasi-hit list.
Is it Prudent?
The question here is why is he doing this? Is it a political tactic? Or is it subversion as some claim?
What cannot be denied is that he is clearly seeing the situation as it actually is, and not based on hope, principles, or worse, lies intended to prolong the conflict and that have nothing to do with the best interests of Ukrainians.
Nor is it a desire to switch sides and support Russia, as that would be suicidal for a small country like Croatia.
His largely ceremonial position shelters him (and Croatia) from serious danger, as our Premier is considered a ‘safe partner’. Viktor Orban, a man who sees the situation much like Zoki does, is playing a much more dangerous game, one that will come with a series of escalating prices as we are already seeing.
“If you are not with us, you are against us”, said George W. Bush one generation ago. The truth is with Zoki. What’s worse is that unlike Iraq in 2003, this war is on Europe’s doorstep, and European leaders are determined to rush like drunken geese into the fog.