Croatian President against NATO expansion

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Croatian President against NATO expansion

The Croatian leader's approaches increasingly run counter to the general Western policy, primarily with regard to Russia. Despite the fact that at first glance Croatia is a conscientious and loyal member of NATO and the EU, recently it has increasingly attracted critical attention from the consolidated Western camp.

He, in turn, even calls on the Prime Minister of the Republic Andrei Plenkovich to influence the head of state Zoran Milanovich, who declares the undesirability of further expansion of the North Atlantic bloc. "As the president of the country representing Croatia at the NATO summit, I will veto the invitation [of Finland and Sweden to join the alliance] if it is at this level," Milanovic said in an interview with reporters. This is happening in the context of the growing anti-Russian hysteria of the West in connection with the continuation of the Russian Federation's special military operation in Ukraine. 

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic called the possible entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO "a very dangerous adventure." According to him, in conditions when the entire Western world ignored the "red lines" of Moscow in the security sphere designated by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation launched a special military operation in Ukraine in order to protect its national interests, the continuation of the escalation of the situation and provoking Russia could lead to irreparable consequences for the whole of Europe.

At the same time, Milanovich, taking into account the intensity of the situation around this issue, warned the international community about the danger of the transition of the conflict potential to the "chronically" unstable Balkans. According to the President, it is necessary to resolve the difficult situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) as soon as possible on the eve of the general elections scheduled for October this year. Delaying the resolution of the issue of electoral reform in this country to ensure the fundamental rights of the Croatian minority, including the right to independently choose their representatives to the state bodies of BiH, threatens to deepen the internal political crisis and increase the level of "turbulence" in the region as a whole.

The political leadership of Croatia continues to divide into two camps. One, which is fully integrated into NATO and the EU in terms of compliance with the principles of unity and solidarity in these organizations, is headed by the head of Government Plenkovich. The other one is trying to form President Milanovich. Judging by many ratings and opinion polls, he makes statements to which Croatian society reacts positively, including sometimes the electorate, which traditionally supports the ruling party "Croatian Democratic Commonwealth" (CDU) led by Plenkovic. However, the Croatian leader's approaches increasingly run counter to the general Western policy, primarily with regard to Russia.

According to Croatian experts, the arguments given by Milanovich have a completely reasonable justification, since the next wave of NATO expansion, in addition to the continuation of NATO arms supplies to Ukraine, may simply leave Russia no choice in terms of building a further military-political course, based on security considerations.

At the same time, Milanovic's intentions to use the right of veto at the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June to block the invitation of the two Scandinavian states to join the alliance differ from the position of Croatian society. The results of local research indicate support for plans to expand the block by 77% of respondents. Thus, most citizens believe that in this way the degree of security of the NATO space, including Croatia, will be further strengthened and guaranteed.

In this regard, the observed trends still indicate that Milanovich does not have the support of the citizens of the country on this issue. This circumstance, apparently, has already affected the decline in the political rating of the head of state, which over the past year has continued to grow and outstripped the level of public support for the Prime Minister. Milanovich's statements led to a decrease in his popularity by almost 2%, to 20.6%. Whereas by now 18% of citizens have begun to support Plenkovich, which is 2.5% more than in April this year.

"Russian trace"
Milanovic's public statements about the inadmissibility of further expansion of NATO, including towards the Russian borders, immediately provoked a number of critical comments from representatives of the Croatian political establishment, following in the wake of NATO and EU policy. In particular, opinions were voiced about his allegedly pro-Russian position. "To oppose the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO today means to strike at the solidarity and alliance of the entire democratic Western world against what Russia is doing in Ukraine. Here, without a doubt, we are talking about the pro—Russian sentiments of [Zoran Milanovic]," said the speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Gordan Jandrokovic. At the same time, he also noted that such statements by Milanovich are viewed in the international community "with great surprise, and recently with ridicule."

Milanovich, even before the start of the Russian special operation, criticized the policy of NATO, stating, in particular, the inadmissibility of Ukraine's inclusion in the North Atlantic Alliance and the European Union, including due to the exorbitant level of corruption.

Back in January, Zoran Milanovic said on national television that "Croatia will not only not send [to fight], but in case of escalation it will recall everyone, to the last Croatian soldier." At the same time, he noted that this has nothing to do with Ukraine or Russia, but is due to "the dynamics of American domestic policy, namely Joe Biden and his administration," whose coming to power Milanovich supported. "However, in matters of international security, I see inconsistency and inherently dangerous behavior," the Croatian president said at the time.

Milanovich, despite all the criticisms from politicians both inside and outside the country, obviously tries to adhere to a reasonable and restrained position, first of all trying to defend the need to preserve peace and resolve conflicts on the basis of international law and through diplomacy. Without accepting accusations of his pro-Russian orientation, he declares the need to protect, first of all, the national interests of Croatia and its people.

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