by Vladimir Gujanicic
The maxim “divide et impera” has never been forgotten and has never been put out of service in Roman era. Every empire use such strategy to achieve its goals, where they can’t go through easily. On the other hand, the lesson of principled alliance needs to be learned, again and again, after many defeats. The moments in history when the small countries (compared to empires) stood by the very end, defending their sovereignty and alliance which is the key of success, have been very rare. One such example is the Axis of resistance, an alliance that has been put on a tough test for nearly eight years. The bloody war, hundreds of thousand killed, millions displaced, yet alliance stay unbroken. Pressures on Assad to distance himself from Iran and Hezbollah before the war did not bear fruit. The understanding of situation in the way of future perspective, make President Assad to stay principled to this thirty-years-old alliance. So, what was other option? We can surely make some parallels from the Balkans experience.
Some of the Balkan states were in the similar situation at least two times in the 20th century. The Balkan alliance (Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro) against the Ottoman Empire, and the Little Entente (Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Romania) against the revisionist countries after the World War I. Austria-Hungary and Germany had goal to build a big railroad which would connect the Central Europe and the Middle East, i.e. the Ottoman Empire where huge oilfields have been located in that period, very similar to a recent pipeline project to transfer gas from the Persian Gulf to Europe. When Austria-Hungary saw the political power of the Balkan alliance in the First Balkan War, they used a big money and agents to destroy pact, especially between Serbia and Bulgaria. At the end territorial disputes between this two, along with the influence of Austria-Hungary, brought these two countries to the brink of bloody war. This conflict has exhausted the Balkans countries, and put the blood line in the way that successful alliance could not be formed again.
The results in near future were that Serbia lost 30% of its male population during the World War, while Bulgaria gambling on Central Powers lost much of its territory after the war. This misery could be avoided if their alliance stood in a principled manner. In that case, both countries could have fewer casualties and could defend their national and economic sovereignty. The second example is the Little Entente, an alliance which could bring around 3 million men under arms and had a wider alliance with France. Still, the national question was not properly resolved in the interwar period, so the principle of alliance was broken here as well.
When Hitler started his expansionism project in 1936, he was not military strong, but the old maxim was used here again, across Yugoslavia (Stojadinovic and Pavle) and later in Romania. He managed to surround his main target, the Czechoslovakia. The result was that Hitler got the best arm industry in Europe, Yugoslavia lost around a million man in the Second World War, and Romania lost more than 300,000 man on the Eastern front as well as an additional 100,000 during the Soviet counteroffensive. Furthermore, the Czechoslovakia had a loss of about 350,000 men. Overall losses included more than 1,500,000 dead and completely destroyed national resources. All that could be avoided with the policy of principled alliance. The way many people still think is that they will avoid slaughter if they put their country out of such alliances, and give empires what they want. The way many people thinking is that they will avoid slaughter if they put their country and alliance aside, and give empires what they want. This miscalculation is one of the main reasons why empires find weak point in alliances, beside ideological and religions conflicts in specific countries or alliances which are targeted.
The comparison between the Balkans and the Middle East as object of imperial power influence is a good example how “small” states should act. The current Syrian president, as his father before him, perfectly knew that there is no middle solution and the Middle East will be shaped in one way or another, and if they give up alliance with the Axis of resistance, first they would lose sovereignty and after that whole future of the region would be much different in benefit of Western empires and their regional allies. After this moment happens, all is in vain and there is no other option than waiting historical moment, to break the chain of empire. The principle of alliance of course cost much in human lives and material resources, but defeat and shaping the Middle East under imperial control would be much worse in perspective, than any losses sustained by now. It’s a battle of life and death, but at least some lesions from history are clearly learned, and many mistakes from previous experience of defeated countries and alliances have been avoided, and we see the perspective of that policy, which clearly give example and light to the world, that there is another way besides humiliation and defeat.
NOTE: This article first appeared at Balkans Post.