“Slovakia’s Prime Minister, Robert Fico, conveyed to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, on Oct. 26 that his government would not be providing military assistance to Ukraine,” announces a recent news report.
Shortly before Robert Fico – who had just been sworn in as Slovakia’s prime minister – traveled to Brussels to inform the EU leadership of the change in Slovakia’s position on the war (Slovakia had been previously a Ukraine supporter), Fico spoke to the Slovak parliamentary committee in his country’s capital. He told the assembled Slovak MPs that “an immediate halt to military operations is the best solution we have for Ukraine.” He also said that there could be no military solution to the war and that the European Union “should change from an arms supplier to a peacemaker.” For good measure he vowed not to support additional sanctions on Russia if they should be detrimental to his country’s interests.
Many people have never heard of Slovakia, a country of five million in central Europe. Nevertheless, the statements by its named minted prime minister are deeply significant because no leader in the Collective West has yet spoken with so much moral clarity about the disastrous war in Ukraine.
The only other Western leader who has voiced his reservations about the West’s enthusiasm for the war is Viktor Orban of Hungary. Orban even went so far as to meet recently with Vladimir Putin in China, seeking to position himself as a broker in an effort to bring some kind of negotiated political solution to the conflict.
Needless to say, Fico’s words of moral clarity will reverberate in the EU psyche, as many of its leaders know deep down that this war has been provoked by the unwise push to install NATO on a very sensitive portion of Russia’s border. After all, as far back as 2008, Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicholas Sarkozy objected at the NATO Bucharest Summit to the inclusion of Ukraine in the alliance despite the insistence of the United States to have it included in the block. Both Merkel and Sarkozy realized that extending NATO into Ukraine would pose an intolerable security risk to the Russian Federation and feared it could lead to a conflict in Europe.
Despite the objections of some of its European allies the United States, however, continued to press relentlessly for an eastward expansion of NATO, hoping to turn Ukraine into its bulwark on the Russian border. This was unacceptable to Russia who toward the end of 2021 made one last effort to peacefully stop this ill-advised drive. In the fall of that year, just months before the Russians entered Ukraine, the Kremlin sent out a draft agreement which asked for an end to further NATO enlargement.
Under the pressure from the Biden administration, however, NATO did not accept the draft’s reasonable terms and the Russians felt they had no choice but to take matters into their own hands. The result has been an ugly war featuring scores of dead and destruction of Ukraine (here is an excellent piece on this by Professor Jeffrey Sachs titled “NATO Chief Admits NATO Expansion Was Key to Russian Invasion of Ukraine”).
The United States has, for its part, been happy to fan the flames by sending in billions of dollars to Kiev to keep it fighting in a proxy conflict it can never win. Joe Biden and other American officials have been cynically boasting that our support for Ukraine is money well spent, because it creates jobs at home all the while we are bleeding Russia without having to do the actual fighting. The fact that a country is being ravaged, and graves are being filled with thousands of torn bodies somehow does not make it into their moral arithmetic.
Some twenty months after its start, it is becoming clear that the war is not going the way the Collective West would have hoped. The much-vaunted counter-offensive has failed, and Ukraine is running both out of men and morale. It is being reported that Ukrainian commanders are refusing orders from President Zelensky to charge against the Russian lines and thus turn themselves into cannon fodder for the superior Russian forces.
Viktor Orban recently stated the obvious when he said:
“It is absolutely clear that the Ukrainians won’t win on the front lines. All military experts talk and write about it, but politicians dare not admit they have chosen a flawed strategy.”
Although they yet lack the courage to say it openly, many European politicians do see the writing on the wall and are looking for a way to find an off-ramp from the Ukrainian disaster.
Just the other day, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni offered a frank assessment of the situation in a phone call that she believed was made to her by African dignitaries:
“I see that there is a lot of fatigue, I have to say the truth, from all the sides. We are near the moment in which everybody understands that we need a way out… The problem is to find a way out which can be acceptable for both without destroying international law.”
It is notable that previously Meloni had thrown her support behind Ukraine. She is now apparently in the process of changing her mind although she has yet to articulate her new outlook in public statements.
We can be sure there are many among the European governing elite who feel the same way Meloni does. Yet they lack the courage to say so openly, mainly for fear of finding themselves on the wrong side of the US leaders who cannot satiate their seemingly endless appetite for war. To wit, just a couple of weeks ago, President Biden attempted to send another 60 billion dollars to the corrupt government of Volodymyr Zelensky despite the growing opposition to the war from the American public. He tried to bypass this opposition by bundling the Ukraine aid with that to Israel.
Now, as more and more people are starting to see the truth about the Ukraine tragedy, the voices of brave western leaders – like Robert Fico and Viktor Orban – are of great importance. They expose fissures in the western coalition that is being artificially held together by US money and fear of displeasing the American overlord. This will surely embolden others to openly come out on the side of reason and humanity in trying to settle the bloody conflict through a negotiated settlement.
As Robert Fico memorably said: “Better let them engage in peace negotiations for ten years than to see them engage in a decade of conflict with no resolution.”