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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

An EU leader has been shot, and of course it has to be about Putin

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s “pro-Russia” stance seems to be more important than the fact that he was attacked and the reason behind it

Media can’t seem to decide whether it’s Putin’s friends or enemies who naturally deserve to get shot. 

Populist and nationalist Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot during a domestic appearance on Wednesday, and was immediately transported to hospital. Before any further facts could be established, the Western press had already framed a convenient narrative. 

“How Robert Fico turned Slovakia into one of Russia’s only allies,” read a headline London’s Telegraph, only subsequently mentioning that he was “reportedly in a life-threatening condition after assassination attempt.”

It appears that even political assassinations now take a backseat to the news that someone is Putin’s pal these days. So instead, the reader was drawn to the article about a Russian ally, only to be mugged by the subheading suggesting, “Yeah, and look where that friendship with Putin got him!”

That’s a 180-degree turn (or a “Baerbock 360” if you’re in Germany) from their usual hot take, which is that it’s usually Putin’s enemies who get killed. Now it’s his friends, too, apparently. 

In the time that it took for Fico to be admitted to hospital, the Western press had erased Slovakia’s sovereignty with the stroke of a pen. “Pro-Russia Slovak prime minister Robert Fico shot,” reported The National newspaper in Scotland.

“Europe on the edge as assassination attempt on pro-Putin Slovakian PM is branded ‘a wake-up call to the West,’” headlined Britain’s Daily Mail.

One might think this suggests that Europe is unnerved by someone trying to kill one of its elected leaders – that it would be a sad day for democracy and the rule of law. Nope, that’s not what they’re saying. “Fears grow Russian president will exploit the attack – as badly wounded man’s deputy insists he will SURVIVE gun attack,” the Daily Mail went on to explain.

Oh, so the real fear, they suggest, is that Putin might actually start dropping some inconvenient truths. Judging from the tone of the Western press, you’d think that Putin’s the big winner in all this and not the guy who actually survived being gunned down. 

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Slovak prime minister, Robert Fico speaks during a joint press conference after summit of the Visegrad Group (V4) in Prague.
‘No country should be punished for its sovereignty’ – Fico in quotes

The incident risks drawing attention to the notion that the extremists are on the side of the establishment – something that Fico himself has pointed out routinely. He was elected prime minister last October, but it wasn’t his first rodeo, having been previously elected twice before. Speaking of which, if the EU is a tranquil garden, as chief diplomat Josep Borrell once said in comparing the bloc to the developing world, then Fico is a bucking bronco right in the center of it with his pragmatically populist and nationalist positions. Earlier this year, he said he’d block Ukraine’s entry into NATO.

“The war in Ukraine didn’t start a year ago, it started in 2014, when Ukrainian Nazis and fascists started murdering Russian citizens in the Donbass and Lugansk,” Fico said last year. 

He’s been particularly vocal about the need for peace rather than continued war in Ukraine, but has nonetheless said, in the meantime, that Slovakia’s military industrial complex, like everyone else’s, can cash in on weapons sales to Ukraine – at least until they get around to listening to him on the need for a ceasefire. Still, the Slovakian government won’t be sending cash for military-related purposes over there, he’s said, citing rampant corruption.  

More recently, Fico reacted to French President Emmanuel Macron’s obsession about some potential future troop deployment to Ukraine. Fico reminded Macron that Ukraine isn’t actually part of NATO, and therefore the alliance has no obligation to send troops there. As a matter of fact, he argued, Slovakia really has nothing to do with whatever’s going on between Ukraine and Russia. The neighbors are fighting, and he wants to mind his own business. But Macron is giving interviews, the latest one to The Economist, saying that if Russia breaks through Kiev’s front lines, then sending troops is a real possibility. Like, if my neighbors take their fight to the front lawn, well then I’ll have to just go over there maybe and throw a few punches myself. Except that his neighbors aren’t even just down the street.

Fico’s stance obviously leaves France and the rest of the EU in the awkward position of having to explain why exactly Ukraine is their problem if one of the EU countries bordering it has decided to just stay out the conflict. The best they’ve come up with so far is that if they can’t use Ukraine as a battering ram against Russia, then the next thing you know, Putin will be hanging out in Cannes and watching tennis at Roland Garros. 

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FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister of Slovakia Robert Fico.
Slovak PM Robert Fico: Noted critic of Western approach to Ukraine conflict

So again, who are the real radicals? The bloc and their handmaidens in the Western press would have you believe that it’s Fico and not the Western establishment cronies he’s been challenging on every front. 

Earlier this month, Fico was railing about the EU to Azerbaijani TV during a visit there, complaining about the bloc’s intolerance of independent thought. During the presidential election in March, Fico’s political opponents were drumming up fear over citizens voting for his ally, Peter Pellegrini.

“The fear is that Pellegrini will act hand in hand with Fico’s direction of #foreignpolicy, which could have a devastating effect on Slovakia,” tweeted former prime minister Eduard Heger, described by Reuters as having started a “pro-Western party.” The people voted for Pellegrini anyway, despite all the fear-mongering over the potential result of their own exercise of democracy. 

Now, some of Fico’s allies are straight up pinning this attack on the vibe that’s been created by opposition politicians and media rhetoric. Sometimes, though, a lunatic is just a lunatic. By using the Western establishment’s own standards of pinning responsibility for an act of violence on the ideology of a particular group – as they’re constantly doing with the right-wing – in this particular case, they’re the ones who have been fostering an anti-populist, anti-sovereignty radicalization on everything from climate change to the Ukraine conflict, and even on the Covid mandates which Fico actively opposed by heading up mass demonstrations against them. By their own measure, they’re long overdue for a good look in the mirror.

May 16, 2024 at 08:57PM
RT

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