Kiyoshi Hatanaka for the Saker Blog
Serbia is a country that, as even its President Alexander Vucic has publicly admitted, supports Russia in the Ukrainian conflict by an overwhelming majority of at least 80 %. That is very likely an underestimate. The people of that small Balkan nation feel intuitively that Russia has acted correctly and that it is their only international friend. They know their history and realize that at each critical juncture over the last two centuries Russia, whether imperial, Soviet, or the Russian Federation of today, is their only reliable ally. In August 1914, as Europe’s Germanic powers were plotting the invasion and demise of Serbia, after falsely accusing it of complicity in the Sarajevo assassination of Austria’s heir to the throne, Archduke Ferdinand, it was Russia alone among the great powers which in the global storm that was brewing unequivocally stood up for Serbia. Czar Nicholas II literally risked the stability of his empire (and as subsequently became clear, also his own and his family’s life) in order to oppose the assault on Serbia, which triggered World War I.
In World War II, Serbs remember the key role played by the Soviet Army in driving out Nazi occupiers after a brutal and murderous four-year occupation. During the troubled nineties of the last century, after the collapse and dismemberment of the Soviet Union Russia was too embroiled in recovering its own sovereignty to be able to do much for the Serbs. But Russia’s unwavering subsequent support for and insistence on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which marked the conclusion of the Kosovo conflict by defining Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia again made Russia a key guarantor of Serbia’s statehood and independence. Russia’s position on the Kosovo issue has effectively nullified Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence and ensured that Serbia’s claim to the province which was forcibly occupied as a result of NATO aggression in 1999 remains inviolable and valid from the standpoint of international law. The Serbian nation knows that and deeply appreciate it.
If we fast forward to current events, a sharp discrepancy has emerged between the sentiments of the Serbian people and the policies pursued by their government. The Serbian government appears increasingly to be playing a slimy double-faced game, guided primarily by its own political survival rather than concern for the country’s honor or desire to properly represent the overwhelming sentiment of its citizens in international forums.
That game, which is gradually aligning official Serbia with NATO and the Western powers which the Serbian people despise was recently played out in two landmark votes in the United Nations. On March 3, to the utter dismay of the Serbian public, the government voted in favor of a UN resolution proposed by leading Western countries to condemn the “Russian invasion of Ukraine.” Government spokesmen quickly pointed out that notwithstanding the questionable UN vote Serbia still had no intention of imposing sanctions on Russia, but the damage was done. Russia was nevertheless kind enough to exclude Serbia from the list of “unfriendly countries,” which it published soon after that.
Perhaps encouraged by Moscow’s leniency, on April 6 the Serbian government raised the stakes and continued to test Russia’s patience by casting another hostile vote, this time to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, again in response to the pressure of Western governments.
A member of the Russian UN delegation commented diplomatically on that occasion that he found the vote of “our Serbian friends” difficult to understand.
The Serbian government is taking the country on a dangerous path by giving in to Western pressure and blackmail. The first vote might have been explained away as a fluke, but the second vote against Russia cannot be described otherwise than as a slap in the face. The legitimate question that arises now that we can clearly see a hostile trend toward Russia emerging in the conduct of the Serbian government, is how far will these provocations go and what further acts unfriendly to Russia are bound to follow?
Qualified Serbian analysts are of the opinion that once the new Serbian post-election government is formed, a set of measures against Russia will inevitably be adopted on orders from the collective West. That may very well include joining Western “sanctions,” though it is not clear exactly in what form because trade with Russia on very favourable terms is a one-way street which benefits only Serbia. Russia is not likely to suffer much by being deprived of Serbian plums, apples, and other agricultural products, but the fragile Serbian economy certainly will.
On a more serious level, there is widespread speculation in political circles in Serbia that the government’s Western overseers will demand that Serbia demonstrate its solidarity with Western countries by also plundering Russian property on its territory. A prime target would be NIS, the mixed ownership energy company which ensures that Serbia receives from Russia the gas and oil it needs at an extraordinarily favourable price. Will Serbia shoot itself in the foot by disrupting its energy relationship with Russia, which is so vitally important to its people and its few remaining viable industries? That remains to be seen, but Germany, UK, and other Western countries have already done it to their own detriment, so something along the same lines can be expected also from the politically insecure and heavily blackmailed Serbian regime.
Official Serbia having recently set two important precedents which mark its subservience to the Western bloc and pliancy in the face of Western pressure, what is next? Obviously, the collective West’s “unfinished business” in Kosovo is still at the top of the agenda. For Kosovo’s secession to be recognized under international law, Serbia must give its consent and sign off on it. The government has been moving steadily in that direction for the last eight years, granting the secessionist regime one attribute of sovereignty after another, but so far stopping short of the ultimate step in fear of the popular reaction. It is stymied also by Russia’s thus far inflexible position as a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council that the only solution it would approve is the one that is within the framework of Resolution 1244, which mandates that Kosovo is part of Serbia. The question can therefore be legitimately put whether the regime is intentionally annoying Russia in the hope that it will be irritated enough to put Serbia on its list of unfriendly countries and drop its insistence on Resolution 1244, which is what effectively prevents the secessionist entity’s legalisation as a sovereign state separate from Serbia? Time will tell, but well-founded suspicions of foul play abound.
The other important issue on the agenda that must soon some up is Serbia’s membership in NATO. It is an issue that perforce will soon have to be put on the table in light of the collective West’s increasingly bellicose attitude toward Russia, which many interpret as deliberately leading in the direction of war. Assuming that war with Russia is being planned, absorbing Serbia into NATO would be a military and political necessity. Not, of course, in the sense that anyone at NATO headquarters seriously expect that Serbian soldiers would willingly shoot at Russians (even the World War II collaborationist regime flatly refused to send a single Serb to the Eastern front and the Germans could do nothing about it), but because, like Hitler when he was preparing Operation Barbarossa, NATO needs to at least neutralize its Balkan flank.
We should be alert therefore to the likelihood that pressure on the Serbian regime to join NATO will gain in momentum and intensity and will not encounter stiff official resistance. An indication of that is that NATO’s chief lobbyist in Belgrade, a woman who shamelessly asserted that depleted uranium remaining after the 1999 bombing was not only harmless but could even have certain health benefits, was recently rewarded for her 5th column activities by being appointed Serbia’s ambassador to Croatia.
It is important to bear in mind, nevertheless, that with the Serbian media being roughly evenly divided, on the one hand, between Western-owned outlets pushing the Empire of Lies version of events in Ukraine, and television and print outlets under the control of the duplicitous regime pushing a slightly watered-down version of the same party line, the Serbian public is largely shut off from reliable information about Ukraine and just about anything else.
In light of that, the spontaneously organized mass demonstrations in Belgrade and other major cities against the government’s March 3 vote condemning the “Russian invasion” are an important milestone. They indicate that the brainwashing process in Serbia at least is far from a resounding success. They are also a repudiation of NATO’s war plans and of the political betrayals of NATO’s local collaborators. Serbian mass protests are a message to the Russian government and the Russian people that Serbia stands with them and that the decisions of the ruling cabal in Belgrade are null and void.
On April 15 there will be another popular gathering in Belgrade, this time to denounce Serbia’s vote to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights council. Yes, there are now copycat demonstrations in many Western European countries in support of Russia. But it bears pointing out that this time also, as on March 26 1941, when they poured into the streets to denounce their cowardly government’s signing of the Axis pact, the Serbs again are trailblazers in opposition to global tyranny.
Hitler and now the collective West after him correctly categorized Serbs as an incorrigibly troublesome element in the Balkans. May the Serbian people continue to live up to that glorious reputation.
This is the defiant poster that is circulating in Serbian social media these days:
After Serbia’s shameful action against Russia in the United Nations, when it voted to expel Russia from the Human Rights Council, I say:
NOT IN MY NAME
That action does not reflect the position of the overwhelming majority of Serbia’s citizens.