Realpolitik is defined as politics which is primarily based on practical and material factors rather than theoretical or ethical objectives. The name of the game is, therefore, pragmatism.

Realism and pragmatism as used in the 19th century by Otto von Bismarck during the unification of Germany by iron and blood, or by Henry Kissinger during President Nixon's rule one hundred years later after succeeding in warming up the frozen ties with China. We are referring to the employment of force, cunning, immorality and Machiavellianism in foreign politics. Croatia has demonstrated such a realpolitik attitude towards Slovenia ever since 1991. At first Slovenia and Croatia agreed to help each other in the event of a potential attack by the Yugoslav People's Army; however, when Slovenia was attacked, Tuđman simply forgot about it. The two countries then, to the detriment of Slovenia, signed an agreement on the Krško Nuclear Power Plant as part of the package of border agreements. The first agreement remained in force, whereas the Drnovšek-Račan agreement was rejected by the Croatian Parliament. In addition, Slovenia ratified, as far as its interests are concerned, a painful arbitration agreement and undertook to respect it; nevertheless, now we are, in a photo finish, witnessing a new Croatian manoeuvre taken from its treasury of Byzantine-type realpolitik.  

It is more than obvious that also Croatia had possessed unofficial information suggesting that the Hague arbitration procedure regarding the Piran Bay might have an unfavourable outcome for our neighbouring country. How to prevent such an outcome or create a possibility to forever doubt the legality and legitimacy of the arbitration court, the arbitration procedure and, consequently, of the arbitration decision itself? This issue must have kept the Croatian politics, diplomacy and intelligence-security community busy ever since the indications started suggesting a potential outcome of the arbitration. And what happens at this point? The Slovenian representatives serve the solution on a tray. A conversation held among the key players over an unprotected telephone line is what every intelligence service dreams about. We have already, on several occasions, seen and heard how easy it is to intercept and store mobile or fixed phone conversations in the information age. A myth that fixed phone communications are more secure than mobile phone communications has long been nothing but a myth; fixed phone communications can be transmitted through air, too. 

Arbitration between two countries is a political project, a foreign political activity, a diplomatic activity and a clash of intelligence and counter-intelligence services. Intelligence services must collect the key information on activities of the opposite side, while counter-intelligence services must prevent the opposite side from getting hold of our key data and information. Unfortunately, in this specific case our counter-intelligence activities turned out to be unsuccessful. However, according to the information gathered thus far, the blame is not to be put on the competent service, but on external irresponsible individuals. The individuals entrusted with participating in one of the key projects of the national and vital interest for Slovenia – to ensure access to the high seas. Despite receiving adequate counter-intelligence equipment and training, they failed to act accordingly in practice. The human factor and inappropriate security culture took their toll. Responsibility is, therefore, more than clear and objective; still, the subjective responsibility remains to be carefully thought about. At this point we have lost only one battle. What needs to remain clear is our final objective – to win in the end, to achieve a favourable outcome of the arbitration. As a measure of last resort, the opposite side is evidently determined to tear down the legitimacy of the arbitration and/ or to pull out of the arbitration or to run away from yet another of the signed agreements and arrangements. Byzantine realpolitik par excellence. 

Slovenia has now a possibility and opportunity to disclose this Byzantine attitude in Europe and Western democratic world. The Byzantine attitude which, also with our help, has managed to sneak into the EU and NATO. The EU has clearly and loudly said ”no” to the Byzantine Greek-style attitude held by Tsipras. It is now up to all Slovenian political and social players to warn the civilized world that the Croatian Byzantine attitude has reached the level of Tsipras. What is more, it is even worse, because politics is hiding behind the media-intelligence arrangements which are then tried to be sold by apparently appalled Croatian politicians as hot cakes. Croatia must explain and provide answers to the following questions: How many arbiters and the arbitration staff did they eavesdrop on and how long for? Are they abusing the collected material to blackmail or exert pressure on the aforementioned persons? Namely, it is obvious from the leaked recordings that only the most “interesting” and currently relevant parts of the tapped conversations were released. Answers of the type “we know nothing about it” must be nipped in the bud. 

Now is the time to demonstrate and prove that we can be different. That we can be constructive, responsible and credible. That we know better than acting like blabbermouths spreading around the media that the recordings might have been released from Slovenia. These agitators must be asked why they are doing this and what their motives are; they must be lucrative or even worse. The question we must ask is who had a motive to leak the tapped conversations. Surely it was not Slovenia; it has been a long time since I stopped believing in conspiracies of the great; still, I have been familiar with the Byzantine behaviour for quite some time now. Namely, on the same day we first witnessed a presumption of telephone tapping in the Serbian and Croatian media, then the reaction of the “surprised” Croatian politics, a very naive response of some individuals on the Slovenian side and then a grand finale, the afternoon release of sound recordings. All this clearly demonstrates that everything unfolded in accordance with the pre-set plan and scenario. The latter highly likely included also a systematic spreading of disinformation around the media in a bid to cover up the source of the recordings. The Byzantine politics knows that no evidence of what it was doing can exist, but only and just presumptions. It is true; today we more or less have only presumptions. Nevertheless, I am convinced that as time passes the concrete evidence will surface on who devised the scenario, who implemented it and who took part in it, both in Croatia and beyond its borders.


Dr. Damir Črnčec
President of the Association for European Slovenia

The column was published in the newspaper Reporter No.30:črnčec-bizantinska-realpolitika/54076