Understanding the Ukraine Crisis From the Last Free Enclave in Europe

Why would Moscow agree to the very real possibility of nuclear missiles deployed at its borders, which could reach it in 7-8 minutes?

To any Serb who has not lost his mind or has just become numb from three decades of relentless anti-Serbian propaganda and lies emanating from the “free and democratic” West’s power centers and media – the speed and totalitarian scope of anti-Russian measures and the intensity of anti-Russian propaganda censorship that has captured the West cannot come as a surprise.

As Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic stated a few days before the beginning of Russia’s denazification and demilitarization campaign in the Ukraine, about 85% of Serbs are “always” on the side of Russia. Even as Serbia has, over the past several days, come under immense Western pressure as the lone independent enclave in Europe, a sort of a West Berlin of the new multipolar world in the making, surrounded by NATO and/or EU countries that have been, with varying degrees of voluntarity, sucked into the ongoing anti-Russian hysteria and the accompanying sanctions, closing of airspace to Russian planes, etc.

The reason is simple, even if one sets aside the centuries-old spiritual, ethnic and just plain fraternal ties between the two peoples. For the Serbs were, so to speak, the canaries in the coal mine in the years that followed George Bush Senior’s proclamation of a “new world order.”

Early on after the fall of the Berlin Wall, at the beginning of the 1990s, while innocents and just plain people of good will were still enamored with the announced “end of history” and the glorious triumph of “liberal democracy,” in the Serbian parts of Yugoslavia, we were experiencing, firsthand, something completely different, dark and ominous.

We were witnessing the gradual return of pure, cynical power politics, only this time couched in the clothing of politically correct, sugarcoated homilies invoking “human rights,” “democracy,” “European integration” and “peace,” which, as it soon enough turned out, served as a mere “liberal” fog of war, as a preparatory rhetorical, diplomatic and media artillery fire for legitimizing the West’s self-anointed right to define what is good and what is not and to, on the basis of the newly prescribed definitions, interfere and expand its purely pragmatic, base interests wherever it could.

The world was the victorious West’s oyster, “democracy expansion” its new quasi-religion, putting a moral veneer on its newest geopolitical outreach, a modernized version of the “white man’s burden” couched in the newfangled terminology of a supposedly post-ideological era.

Thus, during the violent dismemberment of Yugoslavia, its chief external instigators and facilitators – led by Germany and Austria, with essential help from the U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia – could, thanks to their vast domination of the media-informational space, present themselves as “peace brokers” and, even more sickening, as moral arbiters.

The new-old expansionist West could portray itself to the uninformed and the gullible as some sort of force for good, while painting the enemy – the Serbs then, the Russians today – as evil incarnate. It was on the ashes of the Western-fomented destruction of Yugoslavia that the myth of “indispensable NATO”, “benevolent EU” and the “good West” received much of their subsequent affirmation and post-Cold War soft power.

And therein lies much of the reason why Russia’s – and not only Russia’s – endless polite requests and pleas to halt the North Atlantic military pact’s steady expansion to the east, were not taken seriously, or at least seriously enough, by a critical mass of those who had no direct contact with the Western wolves in sheep’s clothing, like the Serbs (and the Syrians, Libyans, Iraqis, Afghans, Yemenis, Somalis, Venezuelans, etc.) did.

Simply put, the West was only starting to spend the huge surplus moral value it had accrued as victor of a global struggle with an “evil empire,” the kinks in the (artificially manufactured) armor were still too microscopic for the ordinary, inexperienced, well-meaning eye to detect.

Even NATO’s illegal bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in spring of 1999, in the name of “prevention of genocide” in Serbia’s historic and sacred Kosovo province – of which no evidence has ever been presented over the ensuing 23 years – did not awaken the critical mass of Western public opinion and decision-makers necessary to reexamine the wisdom and necessity of continuing on the path of, essentially, a new Drang nach Osten (however, seeing what happened with Trump, much later in the game, it’s beyond obvious that election outcomes and decision-making in the West have been captured by the military-industrial complex even then, just as Eisenhower had warned back in 1961) .

It did, however, finally awaken Moscow, opening the way to Vladimir Putin’s ascendance to Russia’s highest office on the last day of that fateful year. Like the Serbs, the Russians still remembered the true horrors of the last world war and could recognize the all-too-familiar patterns far more easily than most on the European continent.

Unfortunately, Moscow could not do much about them initially, other than to ceaselessly warn, beginning with Munich in early 2007, ask for a general reassessment and renegotiation of common European security and – aware that its tactful warnings, suggestions and proposals were being blithely ignored in the key Western capitals – rearm and prepare itself for the inevitable.

Which finally came with the collective West’s refusal to talk about Ukraine’s neutrality and the halting of NATO’s further expansion, in parallel with the Ukrainian puppet president’s raising of the threat of Ukraine becoming a nuclear state.

Why would Moscow agree to the very real possibility of nuclear missiles deployed at its borders, which could reach it in 7-8 minutes (and, in the case of future hypersonic missiles, in 5-6 minutes)?

Why would it trust NATO’s (true) power centers, whose leading figures had assured it that not one further inch would be taken to the east as the Warsaw pact self-dissolved – and then proceeded to do precisely the opposite?

So, no, the endless verbal assurances and endless empty talk of the past three decades would no longer work, as all Russia had gotten out of it was a hostile, Axis-like alliance at its borders and a campaign of steadily rising demonization that had, of late, in many aspects exceeded that experienced by the U.S.S.R. at the height of the Cold War. When threatened with nuclear missiles under its nose in Cuba, the U.S. was willing to launch nuclear war to prevent it. Russia has threatened no such thing.

A day after the beginning of the Russian demilitarization and denazification campaign, Serbia’s president announced Serbia’s official position regarding the situation in Ukraine, as outlined in the conclusions of the Serbian National Security Council. In essence, Serbia’s position is that it respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity as it respects the territorial integrity of all states in accordance with the UN Charter and the Helsinki Act of 1975, that it considers the violation of the territorial integrity of any state, including Ukraine “very wrong,” but that it will not impose sanctions against the Russian Federation.

It is enough just to look at a current political map of Europe to see the significance, courage and difficulty of Serbia’s decision. Serbia and neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) are islands in the NATO sea that surrounds them – and BiH is not a NATO member only due to the opposition of the Serbs in that country, led by the Serbian member of the BiH Presidency, Milorad Dodik. In addition, all the surrounding states have joined the Western condemnations of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and have joined or voiced support for the newest sanctions imposed on Russia, including the EU’s closure of air space to Russian planes.

As expected, over the past few days, as testified by Vucic himself, Serbia has been subjected to “intense” Western pressure to join the sanctions and condemnations front against Russia. The EU Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia, Vladimir Bilchik has already stated that Serbia’s decision not to join the EU’s sanctions against Russia is a “defining foreign policy decision for much broader relations between the EU and Serbia.”

Former Swedish foreign and prime minister and the first High Representative for BiH Carl Bildt Tweeted that Serbia has “de facto disqualified itself from the EU accession process,” as new members are expected to share in the EU’s “fundamental values and interests.” European Commission spokespeople Ana Pisonero and Eric Mamer have also voiced expectations that Serbia would join the EU sanctions policy.

These are all rather ominous words – and not because anyone in Serbia, other than a handful of well-paid diehards and hopeless cases, truly believes that the country will ever be admitted to the self-proclaimed “most successful peace project in human history” (which expressly approved the sending of fighter jets to neo-Nazi “democrats” in Ukraine),

but because the out-of-control Western elites’ “either you’re with us or against us” mentality is certain to find ways to make its displeasure known to all dissidents. Especially to an encircled, friendly-to-Russia enclave that stubbornly refuses to join the anti-Russian hysteria being fanned all over the Western “liberal” landscape. After all, Serbia was viciously and illegally bombed by NATO in 1999 for not voluntarily agreeing to its own occupation by the alliance of “democratic values.”

Since then, the alliance has gained 11 more members and about a thousand kilometers to the east. So, we shall wait and see in the coming days and weeks what practical measures of punishment or censure will be applied by the EU (and NATO) against Serbia, which has been an official candidate for EU membership since 2012 and is, thus, obliged to gradually harmonize its policies, including foreign policy, with the “peace loving” union.

Russia has shown appreciation and understanding for Serbia’s position. In his reaction to Serbia’s official stance, the Russian ambassador in Belgrade stated that Russia “understands that Serbia is being pressured and does not ask anything of Serbia,” being well aware of the mutual respect and trust that exist between President Vucic and Russia’s President Putin, that Serbia “respects Russia’s national interest,” and that Russia is “at peace” with Serbia’s position and its foreign policy.

In addition, as stated in the National Security Council conclusions, Serbia was itself a victim of Western sanctions during the 1990s and, even more importantly, aggression on the part of 19 NATO states in 1999 precisely for defending its own territorial integrity. In other words, Serbia is not only refusing to join Western sanctions against a traditional friend and ally but also to be a part of traditional Western double standards, which it has felt on its own skin both in the past and in the present.

Towards that end, the speaker of the Serbian parliament, Ivica Dacic, clearly stated that, unlike the rest of “democratic” Europe, Serbia would not join in the “totalitarian” methods and close or censor either Sputnik or RT. So, as things stand, Sputnik’s last non-Russian European outpost now sits in Belgrade, which is, nevertheless, still not sufficiently “democratic” to pass muster with the free-thinking bureaucrats in Brussels

On that same tangent, because you can never have too much trans-Atlantic hypocrisy, the U.S. embassy in Belgrade also reacted to Serbia’s position regarding the Russian intervention in Ukraine by Tweeting that the U.S. “salute Serbia’s and President Aleksandar Vucic’s repeated position of support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, which was violated by Russia’s illegal and completely unprovoked attacks.”

Aside from the brazen twisting and pure invention in which the U.S. embassy engaged – as no Serbian official has used any remotely harsh words to describe Russia’s intervention – American diplomats are conveniently ignoring the fact that their own country has been consistently and aggressively violating Serbia’s own territorial integrity since February 2008, when the U.S. recognized the independence of Serbia’s historical and sacred province of Kosovo (Kosovo and Metohija is the full name of the province, in accordance with the Serbian constitution).

And, of course, except for the 5 EU states that have refused to recognize the secession of so-called Kosovo from Serbia (Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Spain and Slovakia) – the rest of the EU, headed by its most powerful members (Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries), is also being its usual hypocritical self in expecting Serbia to condemn violations of other’s territories when the majority of its own member states have also recognized the violation of Serbia’s territorial integrity by recognizing “Kosovo” and, indeed, actively promoting its “independence” which, in practice, is non-existent, as the territory is a black hole of drug and human trafficking, whose politicians take orders from abroad, as well as home to a large U.S. military base built on land stolen from Serbs.

The Serbian leadership’s initial decision met with the support of the great majority of the Serbian public, which is, nevertheless, well aware of Serbia’s difficult position.  However, on March 2, Serbia joined the majority in the UN General Assembly and condemned the Russian “aggression against Ukraine.”

In a rather sorry display of public self-pity, Vucic tried to justify the vote at a press conference by explaining that Serbia still refused calls to join the anti-Russian sanctions, as well as resisting new Western pressures to nationalize Russian-owned property in Serbia. However, his popularity will suffer as a result, so it’s still a win-win for Western interests in Belgrade, because they always prefer to weak(ened) leaderships, as they are more pliable and, thus, sensitive to outside pressure.

Serbia’s current position is eerily reminiscent of the country’s position in the spring of 1941. At that time as well, the Serbian elite in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was the lone voice of opposition in the country against joining the Axis powers, even though Yugoslavia itself was, along with Greece, surrounded by countries that had fallen under the occupation or political domination of the Axis powers.

As a result of the coup of March 27, 1941, organized by Serbian officers opposed to a pact with the Axis, Yugoslavia was attacked by Germany and its allies on April 6, 1941, the country itself dismembered and occupied, and the Serbian population subjected to political repression and genocidal annihilation over the next four years.

Although the Serbs organized two large guerilla liberation fronts, it was only with the aid of the Soviet Red Army that the territory of Yugoslavia was fully liberated in the fall of 1944.

Alone among the former peoples that made up Yugoslavia (which also included Croats, Slovenes and Slavic Muslims, along with substantial Albanian and Hungarian minorities), the Serbs still remember this, just as many Russians remember that only the Serbs refused to join Nazi German troops on the Eastern Front against the U.S.S.R.

Might this be, in Yogi Berra’s immortal words, déjà vu all over again?

Aleksandar PAVIC is an independent analyst and researcher.

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One thought on “Understanding the Ukraine Crisis From the Last Free Enclave in Europe”

  1. Did I read it right here ; “Western pressure to NATIONALIZE….” ? Oh only now we know that even the West can pressure others to nationalize; whereas they are famed the world over to pressurize others to PRIVATIZE their national even strategic assets across almost the entire developing world. Wow, that is news indeed ! So, like on the issues of territorial integrity, self-determination and independence; in this too they exercise double standards !

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