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DEFENCE MINISTER SAYS COUNTRY HAS LITTLE TO OFFER AT THIS STAGE

Slovakia backs NATO

WHEN Prime Minister Iveta Radičová announced her support on March 10 for military intervention in Libya if the UN Security Council approved it, stating that it was the hardest political decision of her life, it was not yet clear if military action in Libya would be actually initiated. Two weeks later intervention is now a reality and Slovakia is participating in international organisations’ decision-making even though its Defence Minister says the country has little militarily to contribute at the moment.

Ľubomír Galko(Source: Sme - T. Benedikovič)

WHEN Prime Minister Iveta Radičová announced her support on March 10 for military intervention in Libya if the UN Security Council approved it, stating that it was the hardest political decision of her life, it was not yet clear if military action in Libya would be actually initiated. Two weeks later intervention is now a reality and Slovakia is participating in international organisations’ decision-making even though its Defence Minister says the country has little militarily to contribute at the moment.

Temperate stance taken

In unison Slovakia’s state representatives have said that the country will not take an active role in the military intervention in Libya even as it actively supports the weapons embargo to Libya and provides humanitarian assistance to Libyan civilians.

“I’m on the side of a more temperate approach because every dropped bomb and every fired missile is a risky issue,” said Foreign Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, as quoted by the TASR newswire, following the meeting of the EU Council of Ministers on March 21. The minister added that his opinion was that military intervention should come only if there was a Libyan violation of the no-fly zone. He stated that he views the mid-March military intervention as an effort protecting Libyan civilians.

“I am happy that we have reached conclusions dominated by the conviction that the EU should focus its activities on humanitarian aid in the widest sense of the word,” Dzurinda commented about the EU’s position towards Libya, adding that the tasks of the EU and NATO are complementary and “if there is a need for military intervention on the part of the EU, it should happen under the NATO umbrella”.

On March 22, NATO announced that it had decided to launch military operations to enforce the arms embargo against Libya.


NATO’s role

“All Allies are committed to meet their responsibilities under the United Nations resolution to stop the intolerable violence against Libyan civilians,” NATO’s press release states.

NATO activated its ships and aircraft in the central Mediterranean to conduct operations to monitor, report and, if needed, interdict vessels suspected of carrying illegal arms or mercenaries.

NATO members, however, have not formally agreed to direct military intervention by the alliance, a decision that would require no dissenting voices.

“If such a consensus is reached, that is that the countries that are against NATO joining [the intervention] go for the option of constructive absence to not block the alliance, Slovakia will be expected to show political solidarity,” Ivo Samson, an international security analyst at the Slovak Foreign Policy Association (SFPA) think tank told The Slovak Spectator.

Rastislav Káčer, the head of the non-governmental Slovak Atlantic Commission (SAC), noted that, in hypothetical terms, if such an agreement was reached, operations planning would then take place within NATO to generate the necessary military forces.

“Member states contribute according to their possibilities and obligations which they declare within the ‘Force Goals’,” Káčer told The Slovak Spectator, adding that Slovakia’s contribution would depend on the conclusions of the planning process and other circumstances.

Káčer said that although there is no consensus among NATO members at this time about joining the military intervention in Libya, it is also true that there is “an effective coalition to enforce the decision of the UN Security Council which is supported by several NATO member states”. He added his opinion that the international community had waited too long and that the large military operation and loss of lives might have been spared if the EU and NATO members in the UN Security Council would have clearly stated that Gaddafi’s use of brutal force against the Libyan people would not be tolerated.

“Here we can see clearly that value-based politics is more effective than an unboundedly utilitarian and mercantile approach,” Káčer said.

Slovakia’s capacity is low

Slovakia’s ability to fulfil its obligations towards NATO were recently criticised by the alliance’s high representative, Frank Boland, who said after a visit that the Slovak army is lagging behind in modernisation due to underfunding since 2007. Slovakia has been a NATO member since 2004.

Slovak Defence Minister Ľubomír Galko announced on March 18 that Slovakia did not possess capacities to provide effective assistance at this stage of the military intervention.

“We will support all the steps towards restoring peace and towards creating a free society in Libya,” Galko said, as quoted by the Sme daily, adding that this support included not vetoing decisions made by NATO and potentially opening Slovakia’s skies for NATO operations.

Slovakia has contributed to past and current NATO military operations primarily with engineering units, demining experts and personnel for infrastructure construction.

Political and economic analysts do not expect the military intervention in Libya to have any particularly strong impact on Slovakia other than witnessing higher petrol prices or Slovak companies that had operated in Libya being affected.


Is Jasmine like Velvet?

Amnesty International Slovensko organised a protest in front of the Libyan embassy in Bratislava on March 21 that drew only 15 people. The participants lit candles and honoured those who had been victimised by the violence in Libya with a minute of silence.

Some political analysts have stated they see similarities between the recent uprisings of people in the Arab world, the so-called Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, with the revolutions which led to the fall of communism in central Europe, such as the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia.

Samson of SFPA rejected such a comparison, saying that in central and eastern Europe the aim was not only to change the ruling regime but also to change in the entire political system, which he said is not the case in the countries of north Africa and the Middle East.

“In the Arab countries a change of regime, or only of the leaders, might occur but not a change of the system or even the state ideology, which is Islam – not only as religion but also as part of the legislative system,” Samson said.

Káčer, on the other hand, sees a parallel based on universal human values.

“It’s true that the desire for freedom is a universal human value and whatever the authoritarian regime may be, the day will come sooner or later when it will suffer a blow,” Káčer said, adding that not all revolutions in history brought a stronger and more effective model to their societies.

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