June 21. 2024. 7:32

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Until when will Serbia be Russia’s prisoner?

The tragedy of both Serbia and the Serbian people is caused by the fascination with Russia as a gulag, Russia as a prison, Russia as an occupier and robber, writes Vuk Drašković.

On March 9, 1991, the country of Yugoslavia was shaken to its foundations. The gunfire in Croatia announced the tragedy of everyone in our once large country, spreading from the Alps almost to Thessaloniki.

Where are we today, 32 years later?

Slovenia and Croatia are members of the EU and NATO. Montenegro and North Macedonia are also members of NATO, and the EU has also been their strategic goal. Half of Bosnia and Herzegovina wants to join both the EU and NATO, and the other half (Republika Srpska) rejects it.

And where is Serbia, the largest country in the former Yugoslav Federation?

Serbia still doesn’t even know where its national borders are.

The anti-NATO, anti-American, and anti-Western passions of the overwhelming majority of its citizens are perhaps even greater than in North Korea or Iran. Support for the crime against Ukraine is lower in Russia than in Serbia.

9 March opened the gates to great hope. All fifteen members of the then European Community announced that the Yugoslav Federation must survive and that no one would recognise the announced secessions of Slovenia and Croatia.

US Secretary of State James Baker arrived in Belgrade to “beg, bribe and threaten”, as he himself stated.

He offered a gift of five billion dollars for the rapid establishment of democratic institutions in the country. He gave the strongest guarantees that the USA would support Yugoslavia’s accelerated membership of the European Community and NATO.

Milan Kučan, then president of Slovenia, told Baker: “You offer us an illusion: the road to Europe and NATO is blocked because Serbia and the Yugoslav army generals are strategically against the West!”

His words were prophetic.

The president of Serbia, the Stalinist generals of the Army and the powerful hydra of the Udba hoped for a coup in Moscow and poured gasoline on the hotspots of the war in Croatia.

Those people, mentally mired in the order of the Stalinist dictatorship, were shattered by the defeat of the Moscow putschists and Boris Yeltsin’s counterattack, the ban on the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and, soon, the negotiated and peaceful collapse of that empire.

They renamed the restoration of Stalinism as the defence of Serbia, launched tanks on the Croatian town of Vukovar, shelled Dubrovnik, and soon spread the fire of war to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Yeltsin’s Russia was added to the list of Western enemies who did not support their “defence of the Serbian people against genocide”.

Apart from Dayton in 1995, they rejected all peace plans of the EU, the USA and Russia. They rejected the Z-4 plan, according to which Serbs in independent Croatia would get a state within a state.

They also tore up the Rambouillet plan, according to which Kosovo should acquire the status of essential autonomy for the Albanian majority, but within the borders of the state of Serbia.

They chose war with NATO and signed the capitulation and expulsion of the Serbian state from Kosovo.

In the first few years of this century, they despised the friendship of Vladimir Putin’s Russia with Europe and America.

Putin was greeted in Belgrade with tears of joy when he turned against the West, when the KGB Siloviki [Security forces] in the Kremlin proclaimed the goal of restoring the Soviet empire, when they began to erect monuments to Stalin, when the KGB began filling dungeons with “traitors” and killing opposition leaders and pro-Western rebels.

There is nothing anti-civilisational or anti-historical in the special feelings Serbs nurture towards the Russian people. Westerners flocked to the Russia of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, as well as to that of Putin at the start of his presidency, and watched how the Russians, with open hearts, rejoiced in freedom.

The tragedy of both Serbia and the Serbian people is caused by the fascination with Russia as a gulag, Russia as a prison, Russia as an occupier and robber, Russia as a renegade from Europe.

For more than three decades, Serbia has been a believer in that Russia. It has been Russia’s prisoner.