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NO 109-110

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 109-110 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 109-110

July - August 2007




By Sonja Biserko

Russia's undertaking in and about Kosovo triggered off a state of mental confusion and chaos among Serbia's political elite. With domestic situation similar to that in Serbia, Russia is, the same as Serbia, incapable to define its true national interests that would take into account not only military power but also the overall social ambience - the population, its education, culture, healthcare, infrastructure and the like. Russia's saber-rattling and spiraling nationalism cannot but associate 1980s in Serbia - the time when Cosic and Milosevic steered for the radical nationalistic road of no return. The European Left, unaware that the world has changed irreversibly and that the balance of power relying on the Russian military strength is gone, cheers Russia's international "comeback."

The world undergoes transition that takes it further and further away from a bipolar order. Interdependence globalization has brought about only logically aspires to world peace. The present dynamics of international relations testify of the complexity of the emerging order but also of the absence of genuine leadership. The provisional and constantly competing relationship between the two biggest powers lead to unpredictable tensions. This is reflected in their mutual distrust and occasional incidents that associate the cold-war rhetoric and behavior. Passionate anti-Americanism has replaced the passionate anti-communism. Despite its contribution to such adverse trends, the US does posses the values to be shared with the entire world. The crisis of leadership in America - until recently the torchbearer of democracy and anti-totalitarianism - affects the world as a whole. Therefore, the American foreign policy - as Zbigniew Brzezinski suggests - should more than ever before focus universal human dignity, the dignity that implies freedom and democracy but also the respect for cultural diversity and the need to find a universal cure for the continual injustice of human existence.

Swift changes throughout the world brought about tremendous social and economic disorders. The middle class in the countries such as the Great Britain disappears, while big capital - its one leg in the grey zone as a rule - generates a new stratum of bigwigs destructive to states themselves. In weak states such as Serbia - that has never constituted itself as a genuine democracy that protects its citizens - that stratum became Alpha and Omega of everyday life.

Contrary to expectations and assessments by scores of analysts, Serbia set itself on an undefined course of domestic and foreign policy. The effects of the first 100 days of Kostunica's cabinet are disastrous and not in economic terms only. The moral aspect of Serbia's disintegration has been and still is the biggest problem of this society. Minister Velimir Ilic's "I'll do as I please" attitude and the concession contract for the Horgos-Pozega highway picturesquely illustrate the government's arrogance and disrespect for citizens' dignity. And this is not only about citizens' right to information but, above all, about the impermissible primitivism Minister Ilic contaminates public life with.

Serbia's intellectual scene, incapable of abandoning the outdated left-right pattern, demonstrates basic misunderstanding of the emerging world. Exclusive reliance on Russia is shortsighted and fatal for Serbia's national interests. Anti-Americanism and anti-communism dominating the discourse of the leading intellectual elite blur the sum and substance of the problems plaguing Serbia proper. Apart from being fundamentally nationalistic, the Serb elite have opted for a new concept it labeled liberal organicism. That concept (theoretically developed by Svetozar Stojanovic and fully endorsed by Vojislav Kostunica) counts above all on the Radicals and the Socialist Party of Serbia as the foundation Vojislav Kostunica's policy of continuity managed to safeguard. Such orientation is hostile to the influence from the West and nostalgic over traditional values that allegedly protect national interests from globalization. Activities pursued by some NGOs, as well as "the mega-project of gay-lesbian reeducation of the entire mankind" are treated as adverse Western influence. Speaking of changes in general terms, it was Milosevic only who introduced a fundamental one - a multiparty system. For, Djindjic's reformist project was brutally curbed by his assassination. According to Serb nationalists, "the century-long noble endeavor to unite South Slavs and strengthen their identity was proclaimed a hegemonic scheme, which "additionally made them /South Slavs/ sick and frenzied." This is why now, as they revive the same project, they go for other means. What means, no one bothers to define. Irrational attitude toward the issue of Kosovo also demonstrates Serbia's inability to turn to itself and leave the "Yugoslavia project" behind. The Serbian cabinet's and, above all, Premier Kostunica's output in this regard is totally inappropriate and humiliating. Of course, Russia got a blank check in the privatization process as remuneration for its support to Serbia. Russia's comeback through tycoonization and mafia networks will only slow down the Western Balkans' consolidation and the region's transitional and EU prospects.

At the same time, staunch reliance on Russia has finally laid bare the Serb leadership's deep connections with Russia, particularly after Tito's death. Belgrade would have never gone to war against Yugoslavia had it not enjoyed the support of some conservative circles of the Russian elite and military. The sudden collapse of the Russian empire made it impossible for Russia to get more involved in the settlement of the Balkan crisis. Russia's role boiled down to a seat in the Contact Group only. Boris Yeltsin was disgusted with Slobodan Milosevic because the latter had taken sides with the putschists against Gorbachev in the summer of 1991. Vladimir Putin's enthronement "for the first time restored the feeling of national-historical dignity" in the frustrated Russia. The "restored dignity" opened the door to overt criticism of Gorbachev and "Yeltsism" as the symbols of "degradation" of the Russian power. Russia's aspiration to resume the status of a great power is legitimate but the manner in which it implements that plan takes it further and further away from a genuine partnership with the United States - and that is fatal for international relations. Future American administration will not simply ignore Russia's revived cold-war rhetoric and threats. And when it comes to Kosovo, Russia just waits for its secession to raise the question of annexation of post-Soviet republics such as Abhasia or South Osetia it has never recognized.

One cannot but be worried by the fact that Russia lacks the potential for seizing the historical opportunity for playing a positive role at the international scene, including the Balkan region. Russia's preoccupation with its own predominance in a part of the world and its neglect of the interests of small nations will once again give raise to odium for such frustrated imperialism that runs side by side with the American. A search for a new modus vivendi throughout the globe is a shared responsibility of the United States and Russia (and, probably, the EU, China, India, etc. in the time to come). Maintaining the cold-war status quo would not be possible. And this refers to Serbia too. The Balkan region has not been geo-strategically important for long. Therefore, any policy based on opposite premises is shortsighted and losing.


NO 109-110

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