March 25, 2023

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An alarm signal from SRI | TIMPOLIS

The topics that have generated in the last two years an aggressive and intensifying polarization of society – in the last months, populism, nationalism and sovereignty – are in the attention of the SRI. And it’s good that it is so. Because they have proven front themes for the aggressive propagation of anti-Western messages, generated and supported by Russian propaganda to create and accentuate the faults in society, already marked by the multiple crises we are all going through, and to deepen distrust in the national and western political establishment.

The fact that these are already national security issues, that they are in the attention of the SRI confirms it Eduard Hellvig’s speech, held yesterday at “Babeș-Bolyai” University in Cluj Napoca, on the 15th anniversary of the beginning of Security and Intelligence Studies. A speech that does not represent a strictly personal opinion, nor a statement made in public. It’s a prepared speech, with a carefully thought out message. Here is a fragment, the one that addresses these issues, from Eduard Hellvig’s statement:

“You are already growing up in a society where a false thesis is being built, of an artificial dispute between national and European or global identity. Our national identity is a source of pride, as is belonging to an open, tolerant society concerned with global rights. Because both are what differentiate us from societies where free elections, equality before the law, economic freedoms or freedom of movement that we consider natural today are not possible. In this world, nationalism should not only be the prerogative of some extreme discourses or approaches, but also a type of instinct that those with democratic, liberal thinking, who today have the wrong tendency to distance themselves from subjects such as patriotism or traditions.

(…) I believe that support for democracy can coexist with attachment to traditional values, religion, elements of national identity. (…) all the things that allowed us to assert ourselves in the last 30 years as a free, pro-Western, democratic society with a growing economy are also related to our national identity. That’s why I don’t think there should be such a big separation between national pride and the support of universal democratic principles. Thanks to these principles, European societies have succeeded in being the development model to which so many millions of migrants aspire. And the cultivation of national pride should not be left only to the approaches of extremists or populists. As a personal opinion, I think that a moderate, balanced nationalism should be reassumed, redefined and recultivated by those with democratic and balanced thinking in the Western states, including in the Romania of the future”.

This statement of the SRI director – with an extremely rare public presence during the two mandates – speaks for itself about the stringency of transmitting this message. Especially since it comes in a very uncertain geopolitical context, with a conventional war near the country and a computer war that Russia has been waging for years. In a context where we risk slipping into the trap of Russian propaganda, allowing ourselves to be manipulated, divided, eventually giving way to populists, extremists – if not obviously pro-Russian, at least obviously anti-Western.

Let’s just look at the rally at the end of last week, announced with fanfare by the president of AUR, George Simion, which was not actually about high energy bills, as the agitators claimed. These were just screens. It was, in the perspective of the 2024 election year, a test of the sovereignists (read those who want, to the music of Vladimir Putin, to remove Romania from the EU). They had prepared the line-up, alongside George Simion, invoking in their turn… peace. If that were the case, he would have protested, now and once, at the Russian Embassy. But no, they don’t give a damn about Putinist Russia that invaded and attacked a sovereign and independent state and indulged in a vile territorial grab. Instead, they launch tirades against the US, NATO, the EU. The idea that the stake of the protest was a test of sovereignty was also confirmed by analysts close to the national-sovereignist movement – one of them recently stating that “the Eurasian world unites for peace and prosperity, the Euro-Atlantic world goes to war and turns towards poverty”; in other words, the good ones are Putin, Xi, Erdogan, and the political establishment of Europe, excluding, of course, Orbán and Vučić, Putin’s friends, represent the evil. They did not pass the solidarity test for the time being, on the one hand, due to the attendance below expectations, this despite the aggressive promotion they made of the protest, and on the other, the misunderstandings between the most vocal bearers of the nationalist-sovereign message. But they will probably have more trials. Their purpose and the propaganda grouped around them, draped in “independent press”, is to politically capitalize on the frustrations and fears of the population, offering nothing in return, no solution to solve them, to incite the population against the national and community authorities, to destroys trust in the domestic and European political establishment, the next step being the attempt to remove Romania from the EU and break with NATO and the USA.

In this context, Eduard Hellvig’s speech is, in my opinion, a warning signal to the political class, to its democratic zone, which should not let themes such as nationalism, patriotism, traditions be seized by extremists, folded on their agenda and politically capitalized, but also a call to moderation. This, so that we don’t all fall into the trap of extremism – either ultra-nationalism or extreme progressivism, which feed each other. Which, in the long term, would amount to incalculable losses to our democracy.

Article also published in the Fifth Power.

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