PAGE 1/3


NO 155-156

PAGE 1/3 ::: 1 | 2 | 3

INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 1 > Helsinki Charter No. 155-156 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 155-156

September - October 2011

p155-156m.jpg (2031 bytes)


Russia and Serbia


By Snezana Congradin and Matja Stojanovic

The attitudes taken by official Moscow's envoys testify that Serbia - despite all domestic problems that uncontrolled by the executive branch associate totalitarianism - has stepped up so close to European integrations that after yet another step it could no longer give up the course.

Substantive stabilization in the Balkans would begin with normalization of Serbia-Kosovo relations and end with rearrangement of Bosnia-Herzegovina or, to put it precisely, once Republika Srpska relinquishes secessionism. And that's actually the sum and substance of European integration for all the three states. Unfortunately, integration processes in both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo on Serbia. And Serbia is - as official Belgrade is fond of calling it - a factor of stability in the region.

It seems that is why echoing Moscow's disapproval of Serbia's chance to obtain EU candidacy Russian Ambassador Alexander Konuzin searched for "Serbs" among Serbia's citizens and governmental officials (with the exception of Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic) and called for an armed conflict against NATO and EU in Kosovo's north.

A week after this diplomatic incident Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the Serb Progressive Party /SNS/ and Vojislav Kostunica, leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia, along with Republika Srpska /RS/ President Milorad Dodik attended the congress of Putin's United Russia Party. According to unofficial sources, Putin has decided to unify the right-wing opposition in Serbia with the helping hand from RS President to secure Russia's interests in the region after parliamentary elections in Serbia.

Then Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said Serbia could never become a NATO member-state unless it recognized Kosovo's unilaterally proclaimed independence. "I wish to emphasize that recognition of Kosovo's independence preconditions Belgrade's membership of NATO. One thing excludes another. Moscow's is concerned that for the sake of NATO membership Serbia could change its attitude towards Kosovo and so create an unusual and embarrassing situation for us," said Rogozin. He added that NATO Statutes prohibits from membership the states involved in territorial disputes. "All this, however, would not prevent parts of Serbia's general public and elite to staunchly argue about and for such a membership," concluded Rogozin. True, he added to this, "The Western world respects only strong and self-confident people, while encouraging those who are weak and prone to treason towards more disloyalty and weakness only to forget all about them later and discard them as an old and boring toy." And asked about Russian troops' withdrawal from Kosovo, he replied, "Withdrawal of 650 of our peace-keeping troops in 2003 was closely connected with transfer of authority from the military to civilians and the police." He said nothing about Russia having left behind a 575,000 USD debt for electricity but emphasized instead that "Russia is ready to help its Serb brothers" though /Russians/ "cannot be bigger Serbs than Serbs themselves."

The visit by Russian Minister of Emergency Situations Sergey Shoygu further mirrored Russia's stance on Serbia's European prospects. Washington expressed its doubts at the time that the Regional Humanitarian Center in Nis was actually a Russian base in the Balkans, a Moscow's spying-spot for Americans' anti-missile shield in Rumania. Janos Bugayski, head of Southeast European department of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, and a figure close to American Democrats, told the media in Serbia he believed the Nis Center would evolve into a military base to accommodate Russian troops as well. "No doubt that Moscow is after developing a Russian military base at the Center for Emergency Situations in Serbia but is presently short of funds for such an enterprise," he said. "If profits from energy grow during Putin's upcoming presidency, Kremlin will be after military presence in the Balkans to counterbalance what is perceives as American expansion in the region, as well as US military power in Kosovo, Rumania and Bulgaria, and the establishment of the anti-missile shield in several countries of Central and Eastern Europe," he said.

Russia-Serbia agreement on the establishment of a humanitarian center for emergency situations in Nis provides Moscow the opportunity to erect its first military base outside the territory of the former URSS, released American Stratfore analytical agency back in 2009.

In support of its argument Stratfore stresses that the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations, lead by Sergey Shoygu for the past fifteen years is "all but an insignificant ministry." Further, it says that Shoygu is a member of Russia's powerful Council for Security that emerged from the Military Intelligence Directorate, known as GRU, among most powerful shadow institutions in Russia.

By the way, back in 2007 Marko Jaksic, DSS official, used to say that a Russian base in Serbia, possibly "near the border with Kosovo" could be expected should Europe and US decide to recognize Kosovo's independence.

Anyway, it was in 2004 that Russia, following the Western model, realized the benefits of the so-called development assistance for securing soft power in international relations. Adjusting its foreign police to the post-cold-war reality since, Russia has increased five times the funds for "assistance" to other countries. And only a couple of years ago, Russia itself met the criteria for a beneficiary of development assistance. And it is only logical that Russia has been expecting something in return, politically or economically.

But in 2010 Russia set aside only half a billion euro for development assistance, just a bit more than Poland having allocated 380 million. The actual size of Russia's contribution is probably best illustrated by the fact that out of some 130 billion USD of grants worldwide US contributed 30, EU 100, China 2.5 and Turkey and India one billion. From this angle Russia is not a big international player but obviously intends to become one. But it fully serves its donor role within international organization it has established itself and almost all Russian donations are distributed within these organizations.

Till their possible membership of this exclusive club the Balkan countries will be experiencing Russia's growing influence in somewhat differently. To counterbalance these countries' movement towards EU and NATO Russia relies on its energy interests for stronger influence on the region. In this context, the Balkans and the Southeastern Europe are key elements of Russia's energy strategy for EU.

According to the media, big investment projects dealing with areas of gas, oil, infrastructure and high-tech import from Russia were discussed over Minister Shoygu's recent meeting with Serbia's President Boris Tadic and Premier Mirko Cvetkovic. Liberalization of bilateral relations within Russian-Serbian free trade zone was also on the agenda. And only recently Serbia and Montenegro were placed on reserve list for the membership of the customs union of ex-Soviet republics established in 2010. As of January 2012 the customs union will be replaced by a free trade zone by the EU model.

The so-called Eurasian union was elaborated in an article penned by Putin himself for Izvestia paper. In this article he actually outlined the union's future constitution or statute. And these rules to be are already mirrored in Russia's attitude towards potential candidates. Some sorts of bilateral relations between Russia and potential candidates, based on the price of Russian gas and size of development assistance, obviously stand for the membership criteria. And reaching any agreement whatsoever with political representatives of other member-states such as Belarus or Kazakhstan would make no sense in this context.

And obviously there is little space for choice when it comes to a type of relations with this union. Ukraine is an illustrative example. Itself aspiring for EU membership Ukraine did not want to become a full-fledged members of the union and offered a "three plus one" cooperation model instead. Russians turn this down flat. For Ukraine, a full-fledged membership would imply the end of a European course nothing in the Stabilization and Association Agreement is compatible with the relations Russia has been offering so generously, claiming they would benefit all the three sides.

As it seems, Russia's appeal to Ukraine "to free itself from old political phobia of accession" to the customs union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan raises the bid. Though strongly criticized by EU for the political trial and sentence ruled to Julia Timoschenko, accused of a disadvantageous gas agreement with Russians, Ukraine persists on its course towards signing a SAA with EU. "No one from EU says that an end should be put to all our contacts with Ukrainian officials. Our interest in signing SAA with Ukraine has not changed," Stefan Fule, European commissioner for enlargement, told a Ukrainian broadcaster.

A similar "struggle" is on in all the regions bordering on EU in which Russia has energy interests. However, it is the strongest along Serbia's /undefined/ borders. Not long ago, President Tadic himself hinted that Kosovo has become a battlefield of big powers' contest for "predominant geopolitical influence." In other words, logs placed at borders crossings with Kosovo defend the future union's border in the south from NATO. And this is additionally testified by persons dressed in Russian uniforms parading along barricades. Their parade is obviously meant to indicate the one holding the reins of peace in the Balkans.


NO 155-156

PAGE 1/3 ::: 1 | 2 | 3







Copyright * Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia - 2008

Web Design * Eksperiment