James George Jatras
“Pro-Western” Belgrade Locked with Pristina in Race to the Bottom.
Last week’s visit to Serbia by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin could not have come at a better time or – depending on how you look at it – at a worse time.
Mr. Putin came to a country that depends almost entirely on Russia for what’s left of its international standing, especially defense of its sovereign rights over the province of Kosovo and Metohija, occupied since 1999 by NATO and the EU on behalf of the separatist Albanian Muslim administration in Pristina. While Serbs as a whole and most of the opposition sincerely value Russia’s steadfast support, the current “yellow” government in power in Belgrade feigns friendship while conducting a “pro-western” policy guided by the very powers that bombed Serbia starting 12 years ago this month.
Meanwhile, the existing coalition in Belgrade counts on demoralization and apathy amid the deepening gloom to maintain their hold on power:
Economy: With unemployment topping 20 percent, annual inflation at 12 percent, and a burgeoning foreign debt, the ruling coalition can only harp on the one note they seem capable of sounding: that Serbia eventually – someday, somehow – will be invited to join the European Union. Aside from the fact the dangling prospect of EU accession is reminiscent of the communist “radiant future” that never managed to arrive, the question of how membership in a European Union that is itself in deep crisis can help Serbia is never explained. Still, Mr. Putin was barely out of the way before President Boris Tadic scurried to Brussels, the yellows’ true North Star. Instead of wasting time with the EU mirage, Serbia needs to focus on cooperation with Russia on South Stream and other initiatives that are on the table now.
Kosovo and Metohija: While in Belgrade Mr. Putin once again stated Russia’s full support for Serbia based on Resolution 1244, which affirms Serbia’s sovereignty over Kosovo and Metohija and which, he noted, has not been annulled. With regard to direct talks between Belgrade and the terrorist cabal based in Pristina, Mr. Putin said, “It is solely up to the people of Serbia to decide on how to conduct their policies, any kind of negotiations are better than conflicts and if required to do so, Russia would back the process.” He politely declined to note that Belgrade is in no way “required” to talk with the criminals ensconced in Pristina and insists on doing so to please their western sponsors. Not even the erosion of the “KosovA” pseudo-state’s already meager credibility in the wake of the accusations of organ-trafficking by “prime minister” Hashim “Snake” Thaci were reason to cancel negotiations that can only lead to de facto, if not de jure, Serbian recognition. In fact, President Tadic specifically rejected the organ-harvesting allegations as grounds to call off talks with Thaci or indeed “anyone whom Kosovo Albanians elect as their legitimate representative.” Thaci reportedly is afraid to travel abroad for fear of arrest but no thanks to any action by Belgrade, which has not lifted a finger to secure an Interpol “red notice” for Thaci’s apprehension – either for the organ-harvesting murders committed by his KLA underlings or on an outstanding warrant for terrorism and murder, which Serbian officials admit is still in effect. If prospects for talks collapse, it will be due not to any stand of principle by Belgrade but to political disarray in Pristina, including invalidation of the “presidency” of Behgjet Pacolli and the possible fall of “Snake’s” coalition. Meanwhile, shamefully, Belgrade will wait patiently at the table for whoever the KLA-mafia eventually decides to send to meet with them.
NATO: With any further NATO expansion eastward dead in the water following the election in Ukraine last year of an administration opposed to membership, the alliance has shifted its focus to the country it bombed in violation of every applicable legal standard: Serbia. The Tadic government has responded with a crafty ambiguity about its intentions, clearly designed to leave the door to NATO membership open without quite saying so. At the same time, Mr. Tadic says Serbia “fully and genuinely supports Montenegro’s intention to become a NATO member,” but added Serbia would remain neutral (at least for the time being, one hastens to add). He didn’t address how Montenegro’s joining NATO would contribute to Serbia’s security, meaning that his country would be completely surrounded by NATO states, with the probably temporary exceptions of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the latter of which is kept out of the alliance only because of its dispute with Greece over its name. According to a WikiLeaked February 2010 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, “Tadic believes that Serbia cannot remain outside of NATO forever, but doesn’t say this often because of the political sensitivity of the issue.” In other words, as with Kosovo and Metohija, Mr. Tadic pays lip service to Serbia’s position – in the case of NATO, the December 2007 National Assembly Resolution on Military Neutrality – while in effect engaging with his U.S. and European partners in a conspiracy against his own people. Meanwhile Russia is under no illusions what a NATO path for Serbia would mean. “If Serbia joins NATO, NATO will make all the decisions,” Putin has been quoted as saying. “If NATO deploys its rocket systems in Serbia, Russia will be forced to direct its nuclear potential towards Serbia.” In short, NATO accession for Serbia immediately would jeopardize its national security by turning its staunchest defender overnight into a potential adversary.
Political intimidation: Unable to explain their failures, the ruling coalition in Belgrade predictably resorts to character assassination and defamation of their opponents. Top of the list is the effort by prosecutors to try to associate Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) leader Vojislav Kostunica with the 2003 assassination of then-prime minister Zoran Djindjic. Mr. Kostunica responds that he has already told everything he had to tell about the killing and that he will not respond to summons for the interrogation: “The prosecution knows that there are no grounds to interrogate me.” DSS has responded with a domestic and international petition campaign against the regime’s smear tactics. (Not coincidentally, the anti-Kostunica slanders coincide with DSS’s launch of an anti-NATO membership campaign and a planned April demonstration to commemorate the 1999 NATO bombing and the Nazi bombing of Belgrade during World War II. DSS, in addition to opposing Serbia’s NATO accession and to advocating a non-aligned policy, similar to Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland, and other democratic states, promotes strong economic ties with Russia. It is hard to believe there is not a hidden hand of the U.S., NATO, and perhaps the EU in the anti-Kostunica campaign.) Also worthy of mention is Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, held for eight years by the NATO-controlled International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia at The Hague. (While of course, jihad killers like Naser Oric, Ramush Haradinaj, Agim Ceku, and Hashim Thaci – whose crimes are well known to their western sponsors – walk free.) Disintegration of the prosecution’s case against Seselj evidently is neither reason for his release nor for Belgrade to question the further detention of a Serbian citizen without justification. From the perspective of the “pro-western” coalition, however, what importance do details like evidence or national sovereignty have compared to obeying diktats of their foreign patrons?
The Church: Last but certainly not least, the quislings in Belgrade are aware that no effort to degrade and demoralize Serbia can succeed without sowing discord and contention within the mainstay of the nation’s spiritual life, the Serbian Orthodox Church. This means first and foremost the politically motivated action forcibly to remove His Grace, Bishop Artemije – a pillar of Orthodoxy and foremost defender of Serbia’s sovereignty over Kosovo and Metohija – from tending his threatened flock in Kosovo and Metohija. Let us remember, as reported by Julia Gorin, that as far back as January 2010, at a regional security meeting in Pec, “a KFOR officer informed the grouping that it was likely that Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren would be replaced and a new Bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church would be installed in his place, one who was open to cooperation with the West and more open to dialogue.” That is also why, when Vladika Artemije returned to his diocese after he was first physically removed, he quickly was banished a second time by the joint “authority” of the NATO occupation, the current regime in Belgrade, and the KLA mafia in Pristina – and of course their collaborators inside the Church. Nonetheless, despite such provocations, Vladika Artemije categorically rejects any possibility of schism in the Serbian Orthodox Church and demands, simply and without qualification, that the canons of the Church be followed. Stating his unwillingness to abide by any uncanonical directives, he remains until the end of his life the Bishop of the Eparchy of Ras and Prizren. But instead of a reasonable and peaceful response to Vladika Artemije’s witness, those seeking to remove him have resorted to tactics worthy of Hashim Thaci and his minions, throwing Molotov cocktails at the homes of monks loyal to their martyric archpastor.
In short, the two ruling cabals – in Belgrade under Tadic & Company and in the separatist entity in Pristina under Thaci & Company – are locked in a bizarre race to the bottom, in symbiotic obedience to the same foreign masters. In the case of the separatist entity based in Pristina, “bottom” means the final stripping away of the threadbare pretense of being a state in any normal sense of the word. At this point, the main relevant question is not which countries might still make the mistake of recognizing the KLA terrorist fiefdom but which of the countries that were duped into doing so will be the first to withdraw its recognition – a process, once begun, that will trigger a “run” on the bank of Pristina’s vanishing credit. In eerie parallel, the “bottom” for Serbia means the current regime’s managing to hang onto power long enough to complete its betrayal of Serbia’s sovereignty, finish off what’s left of the country’s economy, and undermine any points of political and spiritual resistance. It remains to be seen if either “pro-western” cabal can get away with it.