Under the previous Minister of Foreign Affairs, Evarist Bartolo, the diplomatic corps went on strike in an attempt to halt the proposed political appointments in the diplomatic service. A host of Labour appointees who had no diplomatic experience were also appointed ambassadors. Evarist Bartolo’s performance as Minister of Foreign Affairs was disastrous, which contrasted with his work as Minister of Education which was by far more valuable.
Now, Evarist Bartolo hasn’t been elected on the first count meaning he will be passed over for a ministerial appointment. This means we are going to have a new Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Evarist Bartolo was the ideal candidate for Minister of Foreign Affairs amongst a host of village idiots like Clayton Bartolo and Julia Farrugia. Now that he is gone, get ready for a new Ġaħan to take over the Foreign Ministry. If you thought you had seen the worst, you were wrong because you are going to become really surprised in the coming weeks and months. We are going to have a Minister of Foreign Affairs who will not be able to conjure a coherent and logical foreign policy. This could have been a great spectacle of huge comical proportions if it wasn’t a serious tragedy which could actually jeapordise our national security.
This is what Evarist Bartolo could not understand. And if Varist couldn’t understand, rest assured his successor will never come near to grasp this.
Malta has a position of neutrality enshrined in its constitution because, in 1971, Dom Mintoff sought to leverage Malta’s strategic position in the Mediterranean to get a better deal from the British which used Malta as a base. Malta’s worth to the West was not for its actual use, but rather for the sake of it not being used by adversaries of the West such as the Soviet Union or Ghaddafi’s Libya. By positioning himself in the Non-Aligned Movement which was also composed of adversaries to the West but not necessarily allies of the USSR, Mintoff leveraged brinkmanship to get a better deal from the British. His position also enabled him to get lucrative trade deals from China. Mintoff also had this romantic idea that Malta should rediscover its Arabic roots and also leveraged this cultural movement to butter his relationship with Colonel Ghaddafi.
However, the facts and the reality on the ground were very different. Mintoff never really intended to break off from the West and when he had a dispute with Ghaddafi over the delimitation line between Malta and Libya, Mintoff admitted to the British that he indeed preferred doing business with the British. This was also true in our economic reality with Germany and the UK and Italy being our biggest trading partners in that order. So, despite the anti-Western rhetoric by Mintoff, the reality was that under Mintoff Malta was more aligned with the West. Back then the concept of neutrality between the US and the USSR enabled us lucrative trading deals on both sides of the Iron Curtain while keeping us at a distance from any potential conflict. I have written extensively on this subject in two of my books, this and this.
Now, the problem is that the geopolitical situation of today has changed dramatically and it is nowhere near a Cold War textbook. The obvious reason for this is that what is happening today is not a Cold War but a real and literal war on our European doorstep and against a Western ally, Ukraine. China too shows its intentions to go to war over the South China Sea and Taiwan. The Kremlin has made clear threats it may use nuclear weapons if NATO attacks Russia and this gives Russia leverage for its unilateral will to invade other countries. The Cold War remained a cold war because the sphere of influence was legally demarcated and each power respected the other’s limits. The agreement of Yalta in 1945 which divided Europe was basically respected throughout the Cold War by both parties. This agreement has changed. Europe and Russia are no longer in a position to dictate to other sovereign countries under what sphere of influence they will fall.
Russia and China are forcing the West to go back to the old imperial order for which millions of people all over the world died to eradicate. Malta too was a participant in the very arduous and long historic and global process of de-imperialisation and de-colonisation. Yet, today Malta seems to have learned very little from its colonial past. And indeed, it is ironic that the Labour Party refuses to support Ukraine when in the 1960s, Mintoff was doing a Zelensky by doing the rounds all over Europe and North Africa begging for help against the British imperial oppressors.
Neutrality today, means something very different from neutrality in the 1970s and the 1980s. Malta doesn’t need to support Ukraine militarily yet it will still preserve its neutral status by aligning itself with the West in the defense of democracy and national sovereignty and against the return to global imperialism. In addition, Malta is already contravening the constitution’s neutrality clause by allowing foreign warships in our waters, and therefore Malta has already extensively ignored and made outdated by practice the neutrality clause in our constitution.
In a global struggle where old empires are trying to reestablish an imperial global setting, the space for neutrality in global alignment begins to diminish. Eventually, you are either on the side of sovereign nations and democracy or you are going to do deals with warring imperial states. Doing both at the same time is difficult in theory and even in practice, we have examples of this failure such as when the Non-Aligned Movement in the 1970s experienced fissures with the India and Pakistan War and the warring influence of a bellicose China. Today, we have learnt by experience that Non-Alignment is practically impossible when imperial states are forcing an international order on other sovereign nations. This is also why the Non-Aligned Movement failed because eventually each and every member began taking sides or saw that its foreign policy was too contradictory in practice. This is also what happened to Malta. When Mintoff had problems with Ghaddafi over the sea-demarcation lines, he turned to the British for help. Today, Malta is faced with an energy supply that is partially dependent on China and Azerbaijan, yet we still see no risks in this while global economic relationships pivot according to political allegiances. While India has today learnt the hard way that aligning with the US is in its own interest, we in Malta don’t even have a coherent foreign policy. States that like Saudi Arabia which are trying to mediate their contradictory relationships between China, the US and Russia will also face serious consequences. Once the West figures out energy security on its own and would not need Saudi oil, their barbaric elite will be considered just like any other rogue, violent terrorist: liable to war crimes and prosecution at the Hague. Anyone who can not see this trend is failing to understand what is going on right now in the world.
Malta is Western democracy and we belong in the Western camp. This should be indisputable. The imperial hegemony of warring states such as Russia and China is also a threat to our own democracy. We can believe that our islandess will insulate us from the world’s problems and reach rock bottom or we can build a decent foreign policy. Forget about, it though. We are probably going to hit rock bottom.