Read the original text at eurointegration.com.ua.
Ukraine is not the first state in Europe that faced the problem of temporarily occupied territories. Some countries for decades are not able to return their lands, but there are also successful stories that ended with reintegration.
Ukrainian media, politicians, and experts often talk about a successful Croatian experience.
First of all, they recall the "Lightning" and "Storm" military-liberation operations in early May and early August 1995, which allowed, through well-planned and materially backed actions, to return the vast majority of territories occupied since the distant 1991.
August 5, the day of the Storm operation is celebrated annually in Croatia at the state level as a victory of the Patriotic War. But Ukraine, which also wants to return the occupied territories, should know what happened before this date and what the country has experienced.
August 5, 1995, it seemed that a just victory was knocked on the door of a country that fought for death while maintaining its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
It would seem that the international community and the whole civilized world had, at the beginning of the conflict, to help Croatia defend its independence in accordance with the norms and principles of international law...
In practice, everything was very difficult, and often even quite tragic. And this life experience should be borne in mind by all those involved in such an important topic as the return of temporarily occupied territories. Every Croatian who lived through the war will tell you: you should count on yourself first.
If the Croats were asked about the peacekeepers in this war, they would say that these contingents were more disturbing helpful. The fact is that peacekeepers actually recorded a line of demarcation of the Croatian troops and temporarily occupied separatist territories, but there was no political will on the part of the Croatian territories to return to the international mandate.
Of course, this is exclusively about the issue of military reintegration, because the peaceful component is different. Without the international community, peaceful return of the temporarily occupied territories would be simply impossible.
So what is useful in the experience of Croatia for Ukraine? Is there a similarity in situations that occur with a difference of 20-25 years? Croatian experience undoubtedly deserves careful study and use by the Ukrainian side.
Not without reason, Moscow was irritated by the fact of cooperation between Croatia and Ukraine on this issue. This cooperation started with a visit to Kyiv of Croatian Prime Minister Andrei Plenkovich in November 2016, where he stated his readiness to convey Ukraine's experience of peaceful reintegration of temporarily occupied territories.
Then the Russian Foreign Ministry and the ambassador in Croatia tried to create a political conflict deliberately mixing the issue of military reintegration and peaceful settlement, which was spoken by the Croatian prime minister in Kyiv.
A lot of efforts were made to overcome informational attack. By that time, Ukrainian position was dominant in the media space of Croatia. And its experience of winning the Patriotic War speaks of the need to prevail over the enemy in the media struggle. And not only in its own, but most importantly, in the international information space.
So, in the early 1990's, before the start of hostilities, the aggressor committed a media attack on Croatia. On TV channels, which were often watched by Croatian viewers, there was a stream of misinformation about the actions of the official Croatian authorities. Croatian side was blamed of the aggression, which at that time has barely repulsed the attackers. The state elite and all those who supported it were accused of fascism.
Nothing surprising. Soviet practices of the hybrid were used in former Yugoslavia. At first, checkpoints appear in areas of compact residence of national minorities, then volunteers arrive from the neighboring country, and then military personnel comes. National minority receives weapons from those who starts the conflict, and at some point becomes a military-separatist majority.
In order to compromise the Croatian volunteers, many fakemen were being trained, in particular the Vukovar defenders prepared a television program that allegedly killed young children.
The theory of information warfare teaches that one hundred well-prepared propaganda articles or television episodes are more effective than one hundred most advanced tanks. For Ukraine, this lesson means that we must adopt advanced methods to counter Russia's information aggression. We must always prepare and submit a quality informational product to the temporarily occupied territories.
The struggle for the people's thoughts in the occupied part of Donbas should take place continuously. Croatian experience reminds of another important factor in the victory: the fighting spirit of the troops.
It is clear that when you defend your home, your own family, the integrity of the state - the soldiers are highly motivated. Former Croatian soldiers will remember the constant moral superiority in the fight against the enemy, although in the first year of the Great Patriotic War there were enormous problems in obtaining weapons, and then the enemy could win tactically. At that time, an international arms embargo on the region of the conflict was in force, so Croats had to find hidden channels for receiving arms. Here, the world's Croatian diaspora made a significant contribution, which provided enormous funds to Zagreb.
But let us turn back to the question of moral spirit. We must carefully study the problem of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among fighters and civilians from the front line. In the active phase of the conflict, this problem is imperceptible. But when the peaceful time comes, human body can finally relax, and start a huge problem.
Some fighters who suffer from PTSD commit suicide. There were acts of suicide, which simultaneously killed the surrounding people. There are numerous non-destructive losses...
Croatia did not immediately recognize the magnitude of the problem of PTSD. Studies have confirmed that every seventh fighter will sooner or later suffers PTSD.
Ukraine needs to adopt the Croatian experience. Under my leadership, the embassy initiated the arrival of Croatia's groups of military psychologists and psychiatrists from Ukraine.
The National Guard's leadership approached this issue very responsibly. The Croatian experience of combating PTSD should be put on stream in the Ministry of Defense. Another important factor in the Croatian victory is the dynamic economic growth during the war.
In order to overcome the catastrophic situation after the occupation at the end of 1991, 26% of the Croatian territory created a national salvation government, which included the best representatives of all political forces in the country. This government has worked for a year, but managed to effectively transfer the economy to the military economy, to stop the decline of key industrial and agricultural indicators, to establish effective management at state-owned enterprises and to encourage private enterprises to work with full national interest.
That is, the economy was forced to grow.
It is necessary to realize that the territories located far from the Croatian-Serbian border were returned by military means. Of course, there were also corridors that linked the separatists to the territory of Serbia, but they were not wide-ranging, therefore we cannot even try to compare them with the situation in Donbas.
There is another factor for Croatian success. The leaders of the Serbian separatists in Croatia and Bosnia (Milan Martić and Radovan Karadzic) broke up with Serbia's president Slobodan Milosevic before 1995. Then Belgrade even reduced the amount of aid to the puppet armies in the occupied territories.
In addition, at a time when the Croatian army was preparing for the final liberation operation, "Storm," the highest political leadership in Croatia knew that the troops from Serbia would not go to the aid of the separatists.
Another important detail is that none of the political forces in Croatia advocated the separation of separatist territories. Some Ukrainian politicians voice these ideas from time to time, while in Croatia nobody even thought of this idea.
The Croatian experience also teaches that there are always scammers who earn a lot of money on war and human suffering. Therefore, politicians need to be aware that this category of people will stand for a long-standing conflict.
And, finally, one more important aspect. The conflict in Croatia wore distinct features of an inter-ethnic and interreligious clash - Serbs with Croats, Orthodox with Catholics.
Speaking about Donbas, we have a confrontation of a more ideological nature without a clear cleavage on a religious or national basis. Perhaps it somewhat relieves our situation, since during the life a person might revise her ideological values several times, but very rarely she changes her nationality or religion.