As Americans grow increasingly weary of involvement in messy overseas conflicts and espionage-flavoured intrigues, foreign dignitaries’ travel to US has in this transition time between two administrations grown increasingly more complicated —and potentially perilous to their political aggregate — as they try to show their foreign policy bona fides to America. For the foreign policy bona fides on show to America or any foreign country, to be seen as genuine it must, usually, be first seen as having been cemented in practice and demonstrated in one’s own country. Otherwise, all kinds of politically unsavoury fallout can and will drop like a hot potato there where it hurts.
Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s unannounced and largely unexplained to the public visit to Washington DC this past week appears to have been a visit where she sought to display her foreign policy bona fides to those associated with the new Donald Trump administration currently being put together. Croatia’s President simply disappeared from the country for a few days and all that the public knew about this was in the note on the Office of the President website, which said: “the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will Sunday (1 January 2017) be going on a visit to the USA where she will remain until 5th January.”
In the spirit of the mainstream media’s view that the public has a right to know details of the purpose of the President’s overseas visits, regardless of how biased this mainstream media leans away from the conservative side of the political spectrum from whence the President came, it does strike one rather disquieting and odd that more details as to the purpose of the President’s visit to Washington weren’t forthcoming for days. It can justifiably be assumed that this secrecy regarding the purpose of the visit was responsible for the restless spate of terrible, vicious, insulting media attacks and ridicule against the President within Croatia during the past week.
For optimal success, there’s that crucial and vital thing called risk assessment and risk management we must attend to carefully in what we undertake in various aspects of daily life, in work or politics. It would appear none of that was a part of the considerations flagged at the President’s Office regarding the information the public will have about the Washington visit. Yet another blaring example of hopeless gaping holes in the President’s political and media analytical team. However, if by some chance there were such a prudent thing, as assessing the risk of not saying anything, then most likely the President would not have copped so many vicious, insulting attacks. The risk would have been managed and or mitigated. But then, denying the public even the basic information about the visit to Washington could actually have been a carefully planned trigger for a public outcry that would paint Croatia politically unstable in the first place (?).
But, as these things usually go, President Grabar-Kitarovic seems to have caved into the pressure and 4th January was filmed for Croatian TV news from Washington telling the nation that “…there’s absolutely nothing secretive about my visit…this was an official visit designed to make use of this time of transition between the two administrations for the purpose of positioning Croatia as a factor that will actively participate in the creation of American foreign politics. I’m especially bothered by the fact that in the Croatian foreign politics we always follow someone, instead of being leaders…we cannot as a country wait around for someone to include us in their agenda, we must impose, we must be here…”
Impose, assert, be proactive…I could not agree more. Generally, an important distinction is made between assertiveness and aggressiveness. To be assertive is to be forthright and firm, but to be aggressive is to be rude and pushy and that often earns enemies more than it does successes. It’s the former the President meant, so thumbs up on that. Asserting ones stand is the stuff of what most would see as good politics.
It’s a shame though that this assertion in foreign politics President Grabar-Kitarovic speaks of has not been noticed when it comes to Croatia’s foreign politics on neighbouring Serbia and its constant abuses and lies against Croatia. If assertion of Croatian rights and interests had been established as the way of carrying out foreign politics, then Serbia’s Prime Minster Aleksanadar Vucic’s representative, or anyone from Serbia, would not dare stand on Croatia’s soil and threaten Croatia or maliciously imply wrongdoing against Serb minority living in Croatia!
A shattering, terrible, intolerable thing happened in this line of foreign politics smack in the middle of Croatia’s capital Zagreb on Thursday 5th January while the President was still out of the country in Washington. And, the President has not yet reacted to it with even a whiff of that assertion in foreign politics she mentioned in front of TV cameras in Washington. Disappointing to the core!
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, foreign minister Davor Ivo Stier and most of Croatia’s political leaders attended the Orthodox Christmas reception organised by the Serbian National Council and its head Milorad Pupovac on 5th January. In his speech at the event the guest Vladimir Bozovic from Serbia, representing Serbia’s Prime Minister Vucic, went on to say in a threatening manner and tone: “…to all Serbs and all their institutions in Croatia we send the message of togetherness, unity and increased activity on the realisation of our mission and role with the promise from the homeland state of Serbia that Serbia will defend them with all her available means in all their problems and tribulations, whenever they’re endangered…”
Shock, horror – all that the Croatian leadership could muster by way of reaction was a rather mild criticism and statement of inappropriateness of Bozovic’s message to Croatian citizens of Serb ethnic background, as well as reminding people that Croatia was a victim of Greater Serbia aggression (in the 1990’s)/and not the other way around. No walking out of the room by the Croatian leadership in disgust and protest, or better still – no showing the guest from Serbia where the exit door was. Neither the President, or the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister of Croatia have shown any assertiveness in protecting the Croatian people and nation and state from the persisting abuse that has been coming out of Serbia. It does infuriate and inflict true pain when Serbia’s representatives, acting in promoting Serbia’s quest of denial of their own war crimes, display an ease at going about abusing Croatia and her people on her own soil.
This kind of liberty must be impermissible on Croatia’s soil. This kind of liberty Serbia gives itself on Croatian soil must be removed and denied. No self-respecting country would permit it. Such and other abuses, malicious insinuations and expressions of hatred by Serbia against Croatia, on Croatia’s soil, must come to a stop and surely must fall within the assertion in foreign politics President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic now publicly espouses. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)