When, If Ever, Will Serbia Finally Make a Geopolitical Pivot to Russia?
Last week, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic visited St. Petersburg to open
a an honorary consulate in the Russian city. During his trip, the president
gave a candid interview
sue/> to Sputnik, revealing that Belgrade is frustrated over Brussels
officials' lack of clarity about what awaits Serbia "at the end of our road
to [join] the EU."
Specifically, the president noted that the EU hasn't exactly been
accommodating in accepting Serbia's sensitivity over the Kosovo issue, and
in fact has repeatedly taken the side of the breakaway republic. Belgrade
continues to see Kosovo as an integral part of its territory.
C AFP 2016/ ALEXA STANKOVIC
Also last week, the Russian and Serbian armies once again showed off their
penchant for cooperation, with Russian pilots heading to Serbia for the
second year in a row for tactical helicopter drills, dubbed
. Personnel from the two countries practiced day and nighttime flight, air
interception, close air combat, complex aerobatics and search and rescue
operations. This was the second joint Russian-Serbian mission in the last
two months. Last month, Russian, Serbian and Belarusian troops participated
, an exercise involving joint training of airborne forces.
But Belgrade isn't averse to the Serbian army training with the US and NATO,
either, participating in the US Army-organized exercise Combined Resolve VII
in Germany in
In recent years, Serbian officials' policy of maneuvering between friendly
overtures toward Russia and cooperation with and efforts to join
Euro-Atlantic structures has frustrated Russian analysts, who have insisted
that Belgrade make up
ysis/> its mind about the course it wants to take. Independent geopolitics
analyst Nikita Komarov is not one of them. In a recent analysis
<http://politrussia.com/world/vo-chto-igraet-204/> for news and analysis
website PolitRussia, Komarov explained that if Moscow hopes for Serbia to
make such a significant choice, and in Russia's favor, it will first have to
step up its own efforts on the diplomatic front.
C AFP 2016/ SAVO PRELEVIC
"Serbia is currently the last state in the Balkans that has not lost its
neutrality," the analyst explained. "All other pieces of the former
Yugoslavia, as well as neighboring countries, have been integrated in one
way or another into Euro-Atlantic structures, which totally control social
and political processes in these countries."
But Serbia "could also suddenly become part of NATO and the EU," the analyst
added. "Russian influence in the Balkans has proven insufficient to prevent
Euro-Atlantic expansion in the region. However, Serbs' ethno-cultural code,
and the heavy imprint of the NATO-led war at the end of the 20th century,
continue to be a stumbling block in the path of Western globalists."
"Unfortunately, time is not on the side of the Serbian people, nor in the
interest of Russia. US soft power is gradually drawing Serbia into the West.
A standard 'processing of the brains of the population', in the best
traditions of color revolutions, is taking place. Serbian television and the
print media constantly talk about the benefits of European integration, and
the Serbia' Cyrillic script is slowly but surely shifting to the Latin
Meanwhile, Komarov noted that for months now, Russia's own limited efforts,
specifically via the Russian-Serbian humanitarian center in Nis, have been
subjected to a series of hysterical allegations
n-cooperation/> from Western media and their Serbian hangers-on. The Nis
center, which employs only a handful of people -four Russians and five
Serbians, has been blasted as a 'secret base for Russian military
intelligence', meant to spy on NATO forces stationed in the region; this
despite the fact that the center's real mission is to help the Balkan nation
deal with emergencies, including floods and fires.
In any case, the journalist suggested that if they chose to do so, Moscow
and Belgrade would have every right to establish "even full-fledged military
bases on Serbian territory," and it wouldn't be the concern of any outside
C AFP 2016/ ARMEND NIMANI
Unfortunately, "this policy of double standards in the media cannot help but
to affect the mood of the population. 48% of the country is in favor of
European integration, with only 28% opposed. However, the truth is, Serbs
don't really have much of a choice. At the moment, Russia cannot really
offer Belgrade an alternative. Therefore, it's hardly worth blaming the
South Slavic nation of any sort of 'treachery'."
Admittedly, Komarov noted that opposition to NATO remains stronger - and not
just among the older population. "Today's 18-29 year-olds grew up in the
period of NATO's bombardment of Belgrade, and even massed propaganda is
unlikely to convince them of the alliance's 'friendly intentions'."
"But here too it's necessary to remember Serbia's betrayal by Boris Yeltsin
and his entourage. In 1999, Yugoslavia was not accepted into the
Russian-Belarusian union state, Yeltsin refused to arm Milosevic with
S-300s, and Russian airborne forces were subsequently withdrawn from the
Fortunately, Komarov pointed out, most Serbs seem to be aware that Yeltsin's
betrayal was not the Russian people's choice. Nevertheless, the situation is
not heading in a positive direction as far as Russian-Serbian relations are
concerned. "The Serbian government is essentially moderately pro-Western.
Combining the ideology of EU integration and 'defense of Serbian national
interests', the Serbian Progressive Party successfully received a majority
in parliamentary elections in April. Both President Nikolic and Prime
Minister Aleksander Vucic are members of this party."
The journalist recalled that both leaders have repeatedly vacillated,
promoting military cooperation with both Russia and NATO while insisting
that Serbia will not join the Western alliance. Meanwhile, both men have
pushed for integration into the EU, but not before the Kosovo issue is
C AP Photo/ Dimitri Messinis
At the same time, "if Serbia's pro-Russian forces, in the face of Vojislav
Seselj and the Serbian Radical Party, or the Dveri-Democratic Party, we to
come to power, the republic would immediately face intense pressure from all
sides." Komarov suggested that for the moment, the balance of forces is such
that Russia probably wouldn't have sufficient resources to protect the
country, even if Belgrade pushed hard for an alliance.
"On the whole, the relationship between official Belgrade and Moscow are
somewhat uncertain. The worsening geopolitical situation naturally raises
the question of Serbia making a clear choice about whether to join Russia or
the West. Belgrade continues to hold to a maximally neutral position,
smiling diplomatically to both sides. Admittedly, Russia is only beginning
to restore its former geopolitical weight, and cannot offer full support to
Ultimately, Komarov stressed that "it remains to be seen when Moscow will be
able to triumphantly return to the Balkans. However, this will not occur
before the resolution of the Ukrainian, Moldovan, and even the Syrian
issues. It can only be hoped that by this time, Euro-Atlantic structures
will remain unable to absorb Serbia, the last bulwark of support for Russia
in the Balkans."