THE CULMINATION of events on the Crimean peninsula dominated the political scene in Slovakia on March 3 as the Sme daily and the Trend economic weekly jointly organised a debate of four presidential candidates.
Andrej Kiska, Milan Kňažko, Radoslav Procházka and Pavol Hrušovský all criticised the stance on Ukraine taken by Slovakia’s top constitutional officials as too moderate. All four called Russia's invasion of Ukraine an act of aggression towards an independent state, and blasted the government for not using similar terminology.
Hrušovský said he would be sharper and less diplomatic if he were to give an official stance on behalf of Slovakia.
Kiska recalled the experiences of Slovaks with Russia's “brotherly help” in 1968, and claimed that Ukraine's affairs should be left to the sovereign Ukrainian people.
Kňažko said he experienced the occupation in 1968 and the so-called “normalisation” that followed for the next 20 years. He said such aggression should be condemned, but cautiously. He warned of a referendum in Crimea, likening it to the referendum in Bosnia, which resulted in civil war. He also called on the Ukrainian government to loosen the strict rules for minorities on its territory.
Procházka said that Slovakia has a reputation as a reliable moderator of conflicts, mainly to the east, which gives the country a comparative advantage.
“Paradoxically enough, the inability to call the invasion ‘an invasion’ and the aggression ‘aggression’ could take this advantage away from us,” Procházka said. He blamed the government for its meek reaction and alleged it comes as Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák seeks the job of UN Secretary General and thus “simply counts the votes”.
The debate took place on March 3, when news spread from Ukraine that the Russian troops gave an ultimatum to the Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea to give up or face an attack the next morning. Russian officials denied the ultimatum, and the attack did not take place. Presidential candidates were asked whether they would raise the white flag or whether they would fight back.
Kiska said he would not fight. He argued that a war would only lead to losing human lives and is the worst possible scenario which needs to be avoided.
Kňažko compared the situation in Ukraine with the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact troops in 1968, when he was in his early 20s. He remembered how the citizens blamed the leaders for giving up. Fighting back would probably result in thousands of deaths, Kňažko admitted, but from the ethical perspective it would make the people value their freedom more than they value it now. It is clear, he added, that Ukraine cannot win a war against Russia.
Hrušovský said that if NATO entered the conflict it would mean the beginning of the third world war. He however did not agree that Ukrainians should surrender.
Procházka opined that Crimea is historically a Russian territory and that Ukrainians could let Russians take it now without bloodshed, because they will take it sooner or later anyway.
“It will harm the Russians more if they take it now by force,” Procházka said. He added that it would be different if western- and central-Ukrainian territories were at stake.
10. Mar 2014 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani