Borysfen Intel

Visiting BINTEL — Anton Bebler

May 8, 2015
<p>Visiting BINTEL — Anton Bebler</p>

Муковський Іван Тимофійович

Anton Bebler

Slovenian political scientist, educator, diplomat and politician. President of the Atlantic Council. Professor of the Faculty of Sociology of Ljubljana University (Slovenia).

He graduated from Belgrade University, Slavic department.

In 1971 he defended his Doctoral Dissertation in political science at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

1992-1997 - Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Slovenia and the United Nations Mission in Geneva.

Author of numerous publications in international scientific journals.

Son of the famous partisan Ales Bebler.













“It Is up to Ukrainians What Associations to Join and with Whom to Cooperate”

— Mr. Bebler, do you think it is possible to call today's events making a world war, in particular, for the conquest of Ukraine?

— The term “war” does not fit here. We are witnessing the struggle for spheres of influence, for control. Basically, between the United States and the Russian Federation (with the participation of the European Union). However, this opposition was in the past, today it is pronounced. It is too early to talk about consequences. At this point, it all depends mainly on you, Ukrainians. What your attitude to this complicated process is — such will be its results.

— What exactly do you mean?

— I'm talking about the four conflicts in connection with Ukraine. The first conflict is internal. That is geopolitical development of Ukraine, with confrontation between its western and eastern parts. It is in some way intertwined with the second, international (intercultural) conflict. In particular, between the social strata that consider Russian or Ukrainian their native language. This influences the political orientation of the members of your society. Your East is in close contact with the Russian neighbor, while the West, in particular, Galicia (Halychyna — Ed.) — with Poland.

The third conflict is that between the two neighboring states, Russia and Ukraine. It is linked to the previous one which I have just mentioned.

The fourth is the conflict between Russia and the West. And they are all interrelated.

Do you think these conflicts in one way or other can be “frozen”

— The fact is that without resolving the first two conflicts, the third one can't be resolved. Accordingly, without resolving of the third conflict it is impossible to cope with the fourth.

— Would you start with settling the first conflict?

— Yes, I would start with the one that affects internal problems of Ukraine. It's a dilemma. Ukraine can combine broad economic cooperation with the EU, without being a member, and at the same time also co-operate with Russia and other states of Eurasia. Without that Ukrainian industry will not survive, let alone have opportunities for development. If Ukraine fully integrates into the European Union, it will be its source of raw materials, labor supplier.

— As a matter of fact, Ukraine supplies the labor force anyway. Those are our citizens who have lost their jobs and are looking for earnings abroad.

— Yes... You know, it seems to me that today Germany will be able to do what Hitler failed to.

— It is impossible to control Ukrainians without their desire. History has proven this many times. And how do you feel about the statement that we have in Ukraine an unleashed civil war?

— I think you have had a civil war and foreign intervention at the same time. It is wrong to call thirty thousand militia soldiers in the East of Ukraine Russian armed forces or terrorists. You could call it political propaganda.

— Do you believe in this? Today, not only in Ukraine, but also in Europe they talk about propaganda, but mean quite the opposite side – the Russian one.

— I think that you have an internal conflict, into which the Russian Federation interfered.

Is it not interfering now?

— Yes, it is.

— But that is what it initiated the conflict for! And it involves its citizens into it.

— I should not say so. And I think that it is wrong to call it an interstate war.

— And then what is the annexation of the Crimea?

— Hmmm... Let's first define the events in the East of Ukraine. At this, I can't help pointing out that Russia will never agree to a NATO base in Sevastopol.

— It is also against Ukraine's joining NATO! Should we always ask for Russia’s permission?

— It is up to Ukrainians, what associations to join with whom to cooperate. Last week I was in Moscow, participated in the conference on international security. And carefully listened to the speeches of the former Minister of Defence of France. So, one of Chevenement's (now in the position of the Representative of the President of France for the Russian Federation) theses is as follows: Ukraine should remain a neutral state.

— However, the Frenchman did not try to explain how Ukraine can remain neutral, side by side with such country as Russia?

— You can follow Finland's example.

— Then why did Croatia and Slovenia not choose the same path?

— Because of Bosnia. Personally, I was for Slovenia's simultaneous entry into the EU and NATO.

— Well, you see, the Slovenes came from the circumstances and it was your own business.

— It is necessary to always take into account public opinion. Slovenians were in the majority in favor of the policy, professed by Austria — a policy of neutrality — until the autumn of 1995. And then there was NATO's intervention into Bosnia and Herzegovina. The distance from us to Bosnia is 40 kilometers... A war was in full swing there, accompanied by massacres. The UN, OSCE and EU tried to stop it but did not succeed. And only thanks to NATO and US aviation that war was stopped. Our society was watching it anxiously. As a result, the decision of the majority of our population was as follows: for our own safety, we need to join both, the EU and NATO.

If we compare Slovenia with Austria, we were not in the same situation. Slovenia, as I have said, was next to the blazing hearth of the Balkan war, its position was very precarious. Croatia, located between us and Bosnia, also became a member of the Alliance.

— It is always useful to take into consideration the circumstances, especially when making crucial decisions. Agree, Slovenia, we can say, is surrounded only by friends, it feels safe. It could have declared neutrality, but became a member of the Alliance. Then why do you state that Ukraine, being in much worse conditions of security, should choose neutrality?

— I do not state anything, that's my opinion.

— Then what do you think, should we first join NATO, and then the EU or vice versa? Or can this be done simultaneously? And one more thing: is it necessary to hold a referendum in the country?

— We, the Slovenes joined these organizations almost simultaneously. The rule of entry for all countries has been and remains the same: first — into NATO, and then — into the EU. With the exception of Germany. And of those that entered only one of the two organizations. They are neutral countries. Iceland, if you remember, has no army at all, but it is a member of NATO. The Icelanders did not aspire to it, but had to take this step.

Remember, only three countries held a referendum on joining NATO: Spain, Slovenia and Hungary.

Spain's joining in 1986 should be considered as an intricate stunt. After the dictatorship had fallen, and the first free elections had been announced, the victory was celebrated by the Socialist Workers Party of Spain under the slogan of withdrawal from NATO.

The last post-Franco's government before the very end of its, so to speak, cadence, with the help of  manipulation managed to bring Spain into the Alliance.

— Why do you say “manipulation”?

— As I have said, there were three referendums on NATO membership. Two — before joining and one — after. The first referendum was held in Spain and, to a certain extent, was cunning. Spaniards had been proposed three questions and only one of them received 53 % of votes. And they counted them as a yes to NATO membership.

The second referendum was held in Hungary. The question was complicated, in order to get a positive answer. But not too many people participated in voting. So to speak, there was majority of the minority. And only we, in Slovenia, formulated the question specifically “for” or “against” joining?

Let me remind you that since the creation of NATO — in 1949 — until 1986 referendums in the countries had not been conducted. I once asked French historians: if in 1949 or in 1950 in France had been held a referendum on NATO membership, what the result of it would have been? And I got the answer: the French would have voted unequivocally “against.” The same negative answer to my question was given by German historians about Germany.

By the way, in the Agreement on NATO there are lines about democratic values. Such amendment appeared only two weeks after Canadians who were discussing it demanded this amendment. Remember, at that time power in some countries — potential members of the Alliance — was in the hands of the dictatorship (Portugal, Spain). In 1949, having received the invitation for Spain to join NATO, Franco refused, as he put it, to cooperate with the bourgeois plutocracy. But Americans, out of geopolitical considerations, needed a military base in the Azores. After Franco's refusal, the question was resolved in a different way. The proposal for NATO membership was made to Salazar (President of the Council of Ministers of Portugal). But he, in his turn, sought Franco's advice. And, naturally, got a negative answer.  Then, great money came into play... It is interesting that in the future Franco received an offer in 1952, when the Commander of NATO forces was Dwight Eisenhower, the future President of the United States. The commander, speaking in the US Senate in 1951 (the text is available), warned that the southern part of Europe will be lost in case if NATO is not joined by Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia and Spain. Let me remind you that in Italy then was a threat of communist overthrow. From the territory of Hungary, Soviet tanks could deliver a powerful blow to the south. Representatives of the Western world had done a specific work, including in Yugoslavia. And, you know, who then came to us with a proposal to Belgrade to join NATO? Young Congressman John F. Kennedy. He met with J. Broz Tito, who cleverly responded to the invitation to join the Alliance: why sign a paper? Let's shake hands for the agreement and this will be enough for friends. With Greece and Turkey who also had received the same invitation, J. Tito proposed to sign a defense pact in case of a Soviet attack. This Balkan Pact was signed in Slovenia in 1954.

— Now very few people remember about this. You are well versed in such a complex issue.

— I was told all these details by my father who participated in the preparation of the necessary documents. In those days he worked as a Deputy Foreign Minister. Yugoslavia, which before it became a member of the Non-Alignment Movement, had actually been an auxiliary member of NATO. The Americans had been giving free arms and providing economic assistance. By the way, I think that J. Tito made a big mistake when he gave up free American aid under the Marshall Plan. Having received such an offer from the Americans, Tito thought long about the answer. And at that moment the Soviet Ambassador addresses him with a request about a meeting and promises that the USSR will provide Yugoslavia with the same assistance as the US. And even greater. But on condition that Yugoslavia does not accept the USA’s aid. And Tito agreed. But after a while there was a “quarrel” between Belgrade and Moscow, and Yugoslavia was left with nothing. And in 1948-1949 we had a hunger. And only in 1955, M. Khrushchev arrived in Belgrade and officially apologized for the break in relations, recognizing that it was a mistake. That's when Belgrade broke its cooperation with NATO. Before that Yugoslavia had been receiving aid from the United States (including arms and military equipment) according to the 1951 Agreement.

In Spain everything was done as follows. Franco responded to the 1952's offer the same way as in 1949. And then a separate bilateral agreement on cooperation was signed on the basis of which Spain allowed the United States to open two military bases on its territory. Today one of the bases is the EU Satellite Centre. The Americans also got permission to build a pipeline for the needs of their Navy.

— What, in your opinion, is decisive for conducting a referendum on accession to NATO?

— The presence of a combination of internal and external factors. The society will not resist joining NATO, if it feels an external threat to its well-being.

And if the leadership determines is necessary for the society to take the full responsibility for such a step on its shoulders...

— Please note that in those countries where public opinion was initially strongly against joining the Alliance, with the course of time this process was perceived more positively. In Slovenia support for NATO membership was at the level of 67 %. For joining the EU — 88 %. If to conduct such a survey today, then, in my opinion, about fifty percent of the vote will be for staying in the Alliance. But there will be far fewer votes “against” than there were then. By the way, we have very few of those who are for Slovenia's leaving NATO.

— A question to you, as a representative of the south-western region of Europe: is it possible to draw a parallel between the situations with the Crimea and Kosovo?

— There are similarities, there are differences. Kosovo was forcibly taken out of Serbia. Like the Crimea was taken from Ukraine. At this, military force was used. In both the cases, international law was violated. They violated the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, infringed a number of agreements between Russia and Ukraine, the Budapest Memorandum, and so on. I have counted up to ten such documents. (By the way, bombing of Serbia also violated the UN Charter, the Helsinki Act. A total of at least five agreements). Again, in both cases international law was violated. If one of these so-called operations is called aggression, the same can be called the other. By the way, there is no word “aggression” in NATO documents about the Crimea, there is an expression “aggressive actions”. And its blow against Serbia NATO calls “bombardment”.

The similarity is also in the fact that in both cases as an excuse was used the right to autonomy. As well as the majority of the population’s right to self-determination. From the standpoint of international law, the issue can be called, so to speak, cloudy. Here's a question: Does the autonomy have the right to secession? When talking about the Federal Republic — yes, it does. Like in the case of the disintegration of Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union.

The Soviet laws, adopted in the late nineties, read that the issue of secession of a Union Republic is decided by referendum. If there is some autonomy within the republic, a separate referendum is required on it.  With the question say like this: Do people inhabiting the autonomy wish to remain in the Republic, or do they want to be an independent state? If this rule had been used in the Crimea and in Yugoslavia, then...

By the way, at the time of Ukraine's disintegration from the USSR, the Crimea was not an autonomy. It was granted autonomy by Ukraine. One more thing: the question of the level of public support. Putin, in one of his speeches said that his security agencies identified percentage of the support of the local population — 70 %, and that the results of the referendum in the Crimea were exaggerated. In the case of Kosovo there was a humanitarian excuse: violation of civil rights and persecution of the local population, military violence, murder... And Serbs deliberately expelled from Kosovo one million of Muslim population of living there two million. And at this their passports were taken away and burned so that the exiled would not be able to return.

Approximate number of victims in Kosovo — 10 thousand people killed. As a result of the bombing — not more than eight hundred. In the Crimea, there were no casualties. There were threats without violence. I see this as the difference between the Crimea and Kosovo. You can talk about great economic losses in Serbia. By the way, in Serbia there remained radioactive components from unexploded American bombs.

— And what, in your opinion, is the probability the Crimea's returning as part of Ukraine?

— Zero. History tells us that in 1855, in order to drive Russia from the Crimea, the West — France, Great Britain, along with Turkey, equipped a large army, up to a million men. The war was unleashed, coalition forces landed in the Peninsular. Lots of soldiers were lost there — up to three hundred thousand out of almost a million. But they did not manage to drive Russia out of the Crimea.

— Trying to draw a parallel?

— The West will not solve your problems for you. And to solve territorial issues by force is also impossible.

... By the way, Kosovo has been recognized by 105 states, including most members of the United Nations. Here's another example of solving problems by force.

 Recorded by Oleh MAKHNO

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