20:02 / 18.02.2022.

Author: Katja Miličić

Croatia’s leaders remain deeply divided on Ukraine

President Zoran Milanović and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković

President Zoran Milanović and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković

Foto: Milan Sabic / PIXSELL

While tensions are escalating in Ukraine, the views of Croatia’s President and Prime Minister on the crisis could not be further apart. 

President Zoran Milanović has been very outspoken about his opposition to Ukraine ever joining NATO and reiterated that position on Friday. He told reporters that in this case, defense, not offense, was the best defense.


"I'm talking about NATO expansion. That's an attack, absolutely. As long as I am the president of Croatia, I will oppose any kind of NATO expansion,” said Milanović.


The President's remarks, which go against Alliance's open door policy, come as Russian troops are amassed at Ukraine's border. Russia's withdrawal is contingent on a pledge that NATO will not expand to Ukraine.


Milanović warned that the West’s constant messaging about the inevitability of an attack on Ukraine was doing harm that country. He also said that anyone who supported Ukraine joining NATO was working against Croatia's interests.


"We are a member of NATO. This is binding for us. Tomorrow, someone can decide to send us there. It is very deceitful to mislead people that a country that is large but incomparably weaker than Russia can be defended with slingshots if there is a war and also claim that our soldiers will not be sent there," he said.


Milanovic said back in January Croatian soldiers would not participate in any NATO operations in Ukraine, which he described as one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. His remarks were condemned by the government in Kiyv, which summoned the Croatian ambassador for a meeting. Croatia's government also condemned the remarks.


Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who was in Brussels on Friday for an EU-Africa Summit, said the position of all EU member states was to preserve EU and NATO unity during this crisis and to stand with Ukraine.


"All diplomatic, political and communication channels should be used to de-escalate this crisis, avoid conflict and renewed aggression on Ukraine,” said Plenković.


PM also spoke about upholding the basic principles of international law, respecting the sovereignty of nations, building good relations, and avoiding all conflict.


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