Following the European Union’s decision earlier this week to train 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers on the soil of various member states, Croatia has joined its northern neighbor Hungary in declining to take part in the mission.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday in Zagreb, Croatian President Zoran Milanović, responding to question about the EU-wide mission that had been agreed upon the day before during a meeting between the bloc’s foreign ministers, said: “I don’t want to Croatia to become any more involved in this war than it has to be,” the Brussels-based media network Euractiv reports.
“As the commander-in-chief of the Croatian army, I will not approve the training of Ukrainian soldiers,” Milanović, a member of the center-Left Socijaldemokratska partija Hrvatske (SDP), added.
“I do not support the idea because I do not want Croatia to get more involved in this war than it has to be. We are showing fairness and solidarity, and that’s it. No more than that,” said the Croatian head of state.
Milanović also told journalists that he, as the president, does not have the power decide whether or not Croatian military equipment is supplied to Ukraine, adding that he supports the transfer of weapons and other military hardware if and only if the European Union replaces them.
The president said that he is against any policy that would “deprive Croatia of its vital defense components,” and made it clear that “the defense of Croatia comes first… then NATO and others.”
Milanović isn’t alone in his refusal to train Ukrainian troops on Croatian soil. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, from the beginning of the Russo-Ukraine War, has taken an uncompromising anti-war position, refusing both to send arms to its eastern neighbor and to allow the transit of weapons to Ukraine through Hungary, so as not to become a party to the conflict. Like Orbán, Milanović has stated that the European Union’s sanctions against Russia “do not really work.”
Days ago, while speaking at a panel discussion in Berlin, Orbán summed up his position on the Russo-Ukrainian War, saying: “I belong to the peace camp, so I am for an immediate ceasefire—no matter what the Ukrainians think of it. I’m unwilling to help Ukrainians in such a way that I ruin Hungary economically and Hungarians die.”
On Monday, after the meeting between EU foreign ministers where the decision was made to launch the new mission, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó reaffirmed that Hungary would continue to place the interests of its people first in any international dealings.
“We don’t participate in this training mission, we don’t send trainers, we don’t contribute to the costs of the operation,” the foreign minister said.
“Our first duty and task is to ensure the security of Hungary and the Hungarian people, and to avoid getting involved in the war,” Szijjártó said, adding that “[the Hungarian government] does not consider anything that leads to an escalation to be a good idea.”
The foreign minister also lamented that the word “peace” was not mentioned once in any of the speeches given by the meeting’s participants, and noted that the mood of the gathering was rather “combative.”