Croatia Working Hard to Maintain Relations with Russia

By 2 April 2018

Trying to find a balance between solidarity with Great Britain and improving the relations with Russia.

What is the state of relations between Croatia and Russia today? Have they irretrievably broken down, after Croatia expelled a low-ranking diplomat from Zagreb as a sign of solidarity for the attack on a Russian agent and his daughter in Great Britain, for which London claims Russia is to blame, after which Russia responded by expelling one Croatian diplomat, reports Večernji List on April 2, 2018.

As before, the relations will depend on mutual interests, strategic and primarily economic. For example, on the very same day Germany decided to expel four Russian diplomats, it also issued a license for the construction of the North Stream 2 gas pipeline, which will bring gas from Russia to Germany and which has faced considerable opposition from the United States and some of the European Union member states, notably Poland.

It is difficult to imagine that such a project might now be cancelled from the Russian side due to tensions in the relationship and that any country, including Russia, would be ready to give up on financial and strategic benefits. France has also expelled Russian diplomats, but it has announced that it will not cancel President Emmanuel Macron's expected visit to Moscow scheduled for May.

This is the context in which Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović’s invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Croatia should be viewed, bearing in mind that the invitation was first issued last year in Russia.

It is not completely clear why many in Croatia see as controversial the government’s decision to expel one Russian diplomat – given that the government has chosen an almost mildest possible measure. It has joined the vast majority of EU member states which have imposed diplomatic measures against Russia, whether by expelling diplomats or recalling their ambassadors to consultations, in line with the decision of the European Council.

On the other hand, Croatia is a full member of the European Union, which is based on the principle of solidarity. It is not known whether and to what extent will the diplomatic crisis endanger the cooperation between the two countries which had begun to develop after years of stagnation and complete paralysis.

However, one thing is undeniable: Croatia has been working hard to maintain relations with Russia and to find a balance between the two blocks, with the EU and NATO on one side and with Russia on the other.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Sandra Veljković).