More than 150,000 Slovak citizens from the necessary 350,000 have already signed up the petition demanding a referendum on their country’s withdrawal from NATO, according to the Russian newspaper Izvestia.
The referendum is expected to be held in the next two years.
The petition was initiated by the Eurosceptic right-wing People’s Party – Our Slovakia, which was renamed Kotleba in November 2015, Izvestia reported.
It is led by Marian Kotleba, the governor of the largest of Slovakia’s eight regions.
The newspaper also referred to numerous protest rallies across Slovakia, during which people said “no” to foreign military bases and NATO military personnel on Slovak territory.
The protests and the petition could help Slovakia become the first country to leave NATO, which it officially joined in 2004, according to Izvestia.
Speaking to Sputnik, Russian political analyst Anatoly Petrenko praised the Kotleba Party’s initiative, but warned that it has yet to be implemented.
“The most important thing is not a party’s approval rating but an issue that this party raised for discussion. In this vein, I think the Kotleba Party managed to catch a wave, as surfers say. And the main thing for them now is to go ahead and not ‘fall off’ like rookie surfers,” Petrenko said.
He added that there are many factors that may doom the party’s petition. In particular, Petrenko did not rule out that attempts will be made to look for a so-called “Russian trace” in Kotleba’s actions.
“They will certainly find it and they will quote a Slovak granny as saying that Russia allegedly gave her money so that she vote for Slovakia’s withdrawal from NATO,” Petrenko said.
In his opinion, it is very important how Slovak authorities will act if the petition collects the necessary number of signatures.
“The current Slovak leaders will reveal their true colors during decision-making on the matter. On the one hand, the constitution of Slovakia obliges them to take a decision depending on the results of this mini-referendum.
On the other — as I understand it – those who make decisions in Slovakia are under strong pressure from NATO and pro-NATO structures,” he added.
In other words, it is important whether the Slovak government will pay attention to what is happening now, according to Petrenko.
“After all, a historic moment is currently taking place. No matter how big or small Slovakia is, the country is a full-fledged member of NATO.
And if a full-blown NATO member declares its withdrawal, and if succeeds in doing so, it will become a precedent for many [other countries],” Petrenko concluded.
In late January 2017, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Tacan Ildem said that the alliance had inaugurated its eighth European Force Integration Unit headquarters in Slovakia to facilitate military reinforcements against an alleged aggression targeting Eastern Europe.
Ildem explained the center will be staffed by 21 Slovakian personnel combined with 20 people from Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
“The message is clear: NATO is here in Slovakia. We are committed to defend your country and your people against any threat or act of aggression,” he said.
NATO was established by America in 1948 as a military alliance against the Soviet Union. Lord Ismay, its first secretary general, famously said the purpose of NATO was to keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down.
NATO is governed by Article 5, which commits members to the doctrine that an attack on one is an attack on all. The Cold War NATO alliance consisted of America, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Holland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway and Portugal.
Soon after, Greece, Turkey and West Germany joined. Spain signed up in 1982.
Following the end of the Cold War, there was a big expansion. Former Soviet and former Yugoslav states were brought in.
In 1999 the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined. In 2004, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania joined. Albania and Croatia joined in 2009. Montenegro looks set to join by the end of the year.
Montenegro has a population of 600,000 and a standing army of just 2,000. It was bombed by NATO in 1999 during NATO’s war to support Kosovo’s secession from Serbia.
Montenegro has been run since 1991 by Milo Djukanovic, who switches between being president and being prime minister.
Montenegro is well known to be a transit centre for arms, drugs and other illegal trades. Djukanovic is fabulously wealthy: his family owns one of the main banks, a number of tourist firms, property developers and investment firms.
Last year, Djukanovic won the coveted ‘Person of the Year in Organised Crime’ award from the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. And this is the latest state Britain promises to protect if it is ever attacked.
Of course, it is highly unlikely Montenegro will be attacked. Moreover, Djukanovic has already sold off much of the coastline to Russian businesses, so Russia owns a lot of the country anyway.
But it’s difficult to see how Montenegrin membership of NATO might in any way increase European security.
It is a basket case of a state.
And the same question could be asked of Albanian membership, and others too.
What is the security value to the NATO
alliance of Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania?
Do we want to go to war for Latvia, or Turkey next time Erdogan decides to shoot down a Russian plane?
The problem for NATO is that it has been searching for a role since the end of the Cold War.
During the 1990s and 2000s it moved beyond its remit for military collective defence with forays into ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.
NATO is so desperate to stay relevant that at its 2014 summit in Wales, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, you could practically hear the joyful thanks to President Putin for giving NATO some semblance of purpose.
However, the post-Cold War expansion of NATO has been a source of considerable tension between NATO and Russia.
Russia says the expansion into former Soviet-bloc states violates agreements made after the end of the Cold War between Russia and NATO.
Montenegro’s likely membership (it must be ratified by each NATO state) has also been a source of tension. America has positioned four new rotating battalions in the Baltics and has engaged in huge war simulations in the eastern states.
Of course, the current wave of New Cold War propaganda would have it that Russia is poised to invade the Baltic states, or Poland, and that NATO’s activities are all reasonable and defensive.
But it is sheer fantasy to imagine that Russia in 2016 would invade an eastern state and militarily subdue millions of hostile people.
Talking up the spectre of Russia hasn’t helped NATO much, though.
It has not united the alliance in a grand mission. On the contrary, there are serious and increasingly open differences within NATO itself.
Several member states have been very critical of the new battalions and of the Baltic and Polish obsession with Russia.
Some Western states have made it very clear, against American wishes, that Ukraine cannot join NATO.
German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier recently made an astonishing public criticism of NATO war games and warned against ratcheting up tensions with Russia.
At the recent NATO Warsaw summit, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras eschewed the set speech and also made a public (and barely reported) criticism of NATO policy towards Russia.
Meanwhile, relations between Turkey and America have worsened, and Turkey has just made an extraordinary public claim about America colluding in the recent coup attempt.
UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson has restated Britain’s commitment to NATO.
But why should NATO be an unquestioned part of British policy?
NATO is an increasingly destabilising force in the world.
It’s a military alliance in search of a purpose that has engaged in highly destructive ‘humanitarian intervention’ and is now remilitarising Eastern Europe.
Shouldn’t British governments, under the direction of the electorate, decide on foreign policy?
That has been difficult to do under NATO, especially during the 1990s and 2000s, with NATO’s increasingly destabilising actions.
If we are to ‘take back control’ of our state, and make real decisions about policy, then our membership of an increasingly belligerent Cold War dinosaur also needs to be democratically debated and decided upon.
Public opinion polls consistently show that the British public are reluctant to send armed forces into war. We need a real public discussion about exactly what NATO commits us to, and whether we think Britain should be in an alliance that commits itself to defend corrupt states like Montenegro.