As part of the State of the Alliance series, Damir Črnčec, the Defense State Secretary for Slovenia, sat down with CEPA’s Catherine Sendak to discuss the transatlantic community’s role in securing Ukraine’s victory against Russian aggression.

Reflecting on the past year of conflict, Črnčec stated that the war served as a “wake-up call, not just for the Slovenia or Slovenes, but of course for NATO and the European Union.” Referring to the beginning of the conflict in 2014, he acknowledged that the West’s response to the annexation of Crimea was not strong enough and allowed Russia to escalate its war in Ukraine.

Despite this, Črnčec noted that the transatlantic community’s response to the full-scale invasion had been strong and collaborative, with allies coming together with the same voice. This united response had not been expected by Putin, and it sent a powerful message that transatlantic bonds are strong and enduring. He said, “to put it cynically or sarcastically, Putin is a uniter because he strengthened transatlantic links.”

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When asked about the security and cohesion of the alliance, Črnčec pointed to the decision of Finland and Sweden to abandon their neutral status and join NATO.

As for Slovenia, Črnčec explained that it had committed to meeting its NATO pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defense within the next five years. Russian aggression in Ukraine has changed Slovenia’s priorities and accelerated the need to invest and modernize military capabilities to bolster readiness.

“We are investing in all branches of our defense forces – army, navy, and air force . . . to make them more effective [and] . . . efficient,” he said.

Črnčec emphasized that Russia’s war in Ukraine highlighted the importance of having modern and capable defense forces. He noted that this investment in is not unique to Slovenia, and “throughout the alliance, we’re seeing increased urgency, I think, from all our allies to make further investments.”

“We have to be prepared for everything,” he said. “We have to invest in our defense capabilities . . .  we have to invest in our ammunition stocks, and we have to be prepared for any kind of aggression that may come in the future.”