Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Bush in Zagreb – Croatia comes home

Croatia and Albania have now been invited to join NATO. This was the one mitigating factor for South East Europe in last week’s otherwise mostly dismal NATO summit in Bucharest, in which the hopes of Macedonia, Georgia and Ukraine for NATO membership were let down. But while Bush was not able to press his NATO allies into showing greater solidarity with the East Europeans, yet he was at least able to deliver a rousing speech in the Croatian capital of Zagreb following the summit, expressing the kind of solidarity with the South East European nations of the kind which West European leaders currently seem incapable. Leaving aside the references to God and religion, I endorse every word of Bush’s speech, here reproduced in full:

Dobro Jutro. (Applause.) Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much. I’m honored to be here with the leaders from Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia. The United States appreciates the leadership you have shown in the cause of freedom. We’re pleased Albania and Croatia have been invited to join NATO. And we look forward to Macedonia taking its place very soon in this great alliance for freedom. (Applause.)

Laura, who has joined me today, and I are proud to stand on the soil of an independent Croatia. (Applause.) Our countries are separated by thousands of miles, but we’re united by a deep belief in God and the blessings of liberty He gave us. And today, on the edge of the great Adriatic, we stand together as one free people. (Applause.)

Croatia is a very different place than it was just a decade ago. The Croatian people have overcome war and hardship to build peaceful relations with your neighbors, and to build a maturing democracy in one of the most beautiful countries on the face of the Earth. (Applause.) Americans admire your courage and admire your persistence. And we look forward to welcoming you as a partner in NATO.

The invitation to join NATO that Croatia and Albania received this week is a vote of confidence that you will continue to make necessary reforms and become strong contributors to our great Alliance. Henceforth, should any danger threaten your people, America and the NATO Alliance will stand with you, and no one will be able to take your freedom away. (Applause.)

I regret that NATO did not extend an invitation to Macedonia at this week’s summit. Macedonia has made difficult reforms at home, and is making major contributions to NATO missions abroad. Unfortunately, Macedonia’s invitation was delayed because of a dispute over its name. In Bucharest, NATO allies declared that as soon as this issue is resolved, Macedonia will be extended an invitation to join the Alliance. America’s position is clear: Macedonia should take its place in NATO as soon as possible. (Applause.)

The NATO Alliance is open to all countries in the region. We welcome the decisions of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro to take the next steps toward membership called Intensive [sic] Dialogue. And we hope that soon a free and prosperous Serbia will find its rightful place in the family of Europe, and live at peace with its neighbors. (Applause.)

With the changes underway in this region, Europe stands on the threshold of a new and hopeful history. The ancient and costly rivalries that led to two world wars have fallen away. We’ve seen the burning desire for freedom melt even the Iron Curtain. We’ve witnessed the rise of strong and vibrant democracies and free and open markets. And today the people of Europe are closer than ever before to a dream shared by millions: A Europe that is whole, a Europe that is at peace, and a Europe that is free. (Applause.)

The people of this region know what the gift of liberty means. You know the death and destruction that can be caused by the followers of radical ideologies. You know that, in a long run, the only way to defeat a hateful ideology is to promote the hopeful alternative of human freedom. And that is what our nations are doing today in the Middle East. The lack of freedom and opportunity in that region has given aid and comfort to the lies and ambitions of violent extremists. Resentments that began on the streets of the Middle East have resulted in the killing innocent people across the world. A great danger clouds the future of all free men and women, and this danger sits at the doorstep of Europe.

Together the people of this region are helping to confront this danger. Today soldiers from Croatia, Albania, and Macedonia are serving bravely in Afghanistan — helping the Afghan people defeat the terrorists and secure their future of liberty. Forces from Albania and Macedonia are serving in Iraq — where they’re helping the Iraqi people build a society that rejects terror and lives in freedom. It’s only a matter of time before freedom takes root across that troubled region. And when it does, millions will remember the people of your nation stood with them in their hour of need. (Applause.)

At this great moment in history, you have a vital role. There are many people who don’t appear to understand why it takes so long to build a democracy. You can tell them how hard it is to put in place a new and complex system of government for the first time. There are those who actually wonder if people were better off under their old tyranny. You can tell them that freedom is the only real path to prosperity and security and peace. And there are those who ask whether the pain and sacrifices for freedom are worth the costs. And they should come to Croatia. And you can show them that freedom is worth fighting for. (Applause.)

The great church in this square has stood since the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, it has seen long, dark winters of occupation and tyranny and war. But the spring is here at last. This is an era in history that generations of Croatians have prayed for. It is an era that Pope John Paul the Second envisioned when he came to this land, and prayed with the Croatian people, and asked for “a culture of peace.” Today in this square, before this great church, we can now proudly say: Those prayers have been answered. (Applause.)

(Turns to interpreter.) They can’t hear you. Don’t worry about it.

May you always remember the joy of this moment in your history. And may the hopeful story of a peaceful Croatia find its way to those in the world who live as slaves, and still await a joyful spring.

May God bless Croatia. And thank you for coming.

On this occasion, too, Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader delivered a speech that likewise stressed the theme of South East European solidarity:

Croatia knew how to realize its future even when it seemed to be uncertain. Today we are at the threshold of Atlantic Alliance and European Union. The power of this success encourages us to continue to support our neighbors in their efforts. This is why we are very pleased to have with us the leaders of Albania, Macedonia, Presidents Bamir Topi and Branko Crvenkovski, Prime Ministers Sali Berisha and Nikola Gruevski.

The peoples in our southeast neighborhood also have the right to realize their aspirations. In Macedonia, our friends also have full rights for our support and encouragement. We will find the solution for Macedonia to join us soon in NATO Alliance.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Croats, Bosniacs and Serbs have the right to live in peaceful, democratic European country in which all three peoples are coexisting, sovereign and equal.

In Montenegro, they have the right to incorporate their state goals in new Atlantic home. And in Kosovo, they have the right to live in a new democratic order which will protect minority communities and include them in public administration and political life.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, Serbia, too, has the right to its place in Europe and the world. It’s paid the price for its misdirected former politics, and not only has the right, but I’m convinced it will also demonstrate that it is ready for new future. This is why I repeat our neighbors don’t give up. The inclusion of the entire Europe southeast into the Euro-Atlantic integration will continue. The time is for future. Our partners are with you.

On this occasion, it was politicians of the Right who stressed the themes of internationalism and ‘brotherhood and unity’ in South East Europe, of a kind that is inclusive of every nation in the region, Serbia and Kosova alike. Yet our own former Labour prime minister Tony Blair was a pioneer in this regard, travelling to a Kosova Albanian refugee camp at the height of the Kosovo War to reassure the refugees: ‘Our promise to you, to all of you, is that you should return in peace to the land that is yours.’ It was an expression of solidarity coming from the centre-left that compared extremely favourably with the minimisation of Albanian suffering, and whitewashing of Milosevic, in which radical leftists were engaging at the time.

For anyone coming from a radical left-wing background, as I do, the ironies are there for all to see. Radical socialists, from the Balkans and from the West, have long spoken of a ‘socialist federation of the Balkans’. Yet the unification of the Balkans as a tight confederation and military alliance of sovereign states is now being carried out by the EU and NATO (aka ‘Western imperialism’), on the basis of a political model that is the most progressive the world has ever seen (generally falling short in the Balkans in practice compared to that which exists in Western Europe, but there’s room for improvement).

Croatia has long been demonised by radical leftists as a ‘counter-revolutionary’ or ‘pro-imperialist’ nation, so it is ironic, too, that it has taken until 2008 for Croatia to be invited to join NATO. Pro-Milosevic radical-left rag-sheets like Living Marxism claimed during the early 1990s that the break-up of Yugoslavia was the result of Germany or ‘the West’ wishing to carve out a sphere of influence in the Balkans, which would include Croatia but exclude countries like Serbia that were further to the east, both culturally and geographically. Yet it transpired that Orthodox, ‘eastern’ Romania and Bulgaria made it into the EU and NATO before Croatia.

Now that Croatia has finally been formally invited to join NATO, it’s a good opportunity for…

‘Croatia, Western Imperialism and the Left’ – a Potted History, written by a left-wing defector to Croatian nationalism and Western Imperialism

1. During the Revolutions of 1848 in Europe, Croats and Serbs fought side by side against Great German and Great Hungarian nationalism. Consequently, the Croats were a ‘counter-revolutionary nation’ in the eyes of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and other Great German nationalists (or ‘revolutionary socialists’, as some would have it).

2. Conversely, the fact that Croat fascists during World War II fought on the side of Great German and Great Hungarian nationalists, and persecuted Serbs, proved retrospectively to many leftists that Croats were a ‘pro-imperialist nation’.

3. The Croat fascists in 1941 declared war on the US. But they have never really been given credit for this by our contemporary anti-imperialists, who have likewise declared war on the US.

4. Adolf Hitler supported a united Yugoslavia up until March 1941. He invaded Yugoslavia reluctantly, in response to a British-backed coup d’etat in Belgrade. Even then, he remained more interested in Serbia than in Croatia; Serbia was assigned to the Third Reich’s exclusive control, while Croatia became an Italo-German condominium, as the puppet ‘Independent State of Croatia’. This was nevertheless interpreted retrospectively by many leftists – and by many others – as evidence of a ‘historic German interest’ in Croatia, even though it was actually evidence of the exact opposite.

5. The Yugoslav Partisan leader Josip Broz Tito was a Croat. The Yugoslav Communists, under his leadership, endorsed the goal of Croatian independence at the start of the Partisan uprising against the Nazis in 1941. The Partisans’ strongest wing, for the best part of the war, was their Croatian wing – aka the ‘People’s Liberation Army of Croatia’. Throughout the war, the Communist Party of Croatia had more members than any other section of the Yugoslav Communists. The Partisans founded the Croatian republic as a sovereign and constituent member of the Yugoslav federation. Fortunately, most Western leftists were sufficiently ignorant of this history to enable them to overlook Tito’s Croatian deviations.

6. Tito and the Yugoslav Partisans were allies of Britain and the US. In 1944, Tito set up his base on the Adriatic island of Vis under British naval protection. Britain and the US provided Tito with massive military assistance in the form of arms supplies and air-strikes – the latter often carried out at Partisan request, with the help of information provided by the Partisans, even though the air-strikes often killed many Yugoslav civilians. Western leftists were able to overlook these sins in light of the Partisans’ left-wing credentials.

7. By contrast, during the Croatian War of Independence in 1991-92, Croatia received no military assistance whatsoever from the Western alliance. Indeed, the Western powers assisted the attacking Yugoslav army and Serb paramilitaries, by imposing an arms embargo that tilted the military balance at the expense of Croatia. Furthermore, they imposed a ceasefire in late 1991 and early 1992 that rescued the Yugoslav and Serb forces from defeat. Still, the belated German diplomatic support for recognition of Croatian independence from November 1991, and Croatian President Tudjman’s anti-Communist rhetoric, coupled with frequent Serbian mention of the WW2 Nazi puppet state, were taken as evidence that ‘Western imperialism’ was on the side of Croatia.

8. In 1994-95, Clinton gave small-scale, tactical military support to Croatia as a way of forcing the Bosnian Serbs to accept a peace agreement. This essentially took the form of US military training and intelligence, and a green light for Croatian military operations against Serb forces. After the signing of the Bosnian peace agreement in December 1995, US relations with Croatia cooled again on account of the US’s support for the war-crimes tribunal in the Hague, and its insistence that Franjo Tudjman’s regime in Zagreb collaborate with it. In 1998, Tudjman responded to US pressure over the tribunal by signing a declaration of friendship and cooperation with Russia, providing for military and other forms of cooperation. Croatia’s conflict with the tribunal was uncomfortable for many leftists, since both were supposed to be on the side of imperialism, so they tended simply to ignore it.

9. During the run-up to the Iraq War, Croatia was rather more wobbly than most other formerly Communist European countries in supporting US military action, even resulting in a US rebuke. In radical left-wing terms, this can perhaps be explained by the fact that Croatia was more an ally of German imperialism than US imperialism (US support for Operation Storm can at this point be forgotten so as to keep things simple).

Well, I suppose we Croats can only resist our genetically programmed inclination to support imperialism for so long; I personally gave up a while ago. After all the twisting and turning we’ve had to do, throughout our history, to prove that we’re a ‘counter-revolutionary nation’, it’s a relief that we’ve finally been admitted to the club.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008 - Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Croatia, Former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, NATO, Serbia, The Left

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