ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — NATO-member Croatia’s president on Monday criticized Western nations for supplying Ukraine with heavy tanks and other weapons in its campaign against invading Russian forces, saying those arms deliveries will only prolong the war.
Zoran Milanovic told reporters in the Croatian capital that it’s “mad” to believe that Russia can be defeated in a conventional war.
“I am against sending any lethal arms there,” Milanovic said. “It prolongs the war.”
“What is the goal? Disintegration of Russia, change of the government? There is also talk of tearing Russia apart. This is mad,” he added.
Milanovic won the presidential election in Croatia in 2019 as a left-leaning liberal candidate, a counterpoint to the conservative government currently in power in the European Union and NATO-member state. But he has since made a turn to populist nationalism and criticized Western policies toward Russia as well as the Balkans.
Milanovic has built a reputation of being pro-Russian, which he has repeatedly denied. Yet in recent months, he has openly opposed the admission of Finland and Sweden into NATO as well as the training of Ukrainian troops in Croatia as part of EU aid to the embattled country.
On Monday, the Croatian president expanded his narrative by saying he believes that Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, will never again be part of Ukraine.
After months of hesitation, the U.S. said it will send 31 of its 70-ton Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, and Germany announced it will dispatch 14 Leopard 2 tanks and allow other countries to do the same.
Milanovic said that “from 2014 to 2022, we are watching how someone provokes Russia with the intention of starting this war.”
“What is the goal of this war? A war against a nuclear power that is at war in another country? Is there a conventional way to defeat such a country?” Milanovic asked on Monday. “Who pays the price? Europe. America pays the least,” he said.
“A year has passed and we are only now talking about tanks,” Milanovic said. “Not a single American tank will go to Ukraine in a year. Only German tanks will be sent there.”
Although the presidential post is mostly ceremonial in Croatia, Milanovic is formally the supreme commander of the armed forces. His latest anti-Western outbursts have embarrassed and irritated the country’s government which has fully supported Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s aggression.
On Monday, Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic reacted to the president’s positions by saying they “directly harm Croatia’s foreign policy position.”
“The summary of that narrative is: let’s sit down as soon as possible, let the Russians take away I don’t know how many thousands of square kilometers of Ukraine and forget about the expansion of NATO,” Plenkovic said.
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