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Saturday, March 25, 2023

What is behind Serbia’s Economy Minister’s call to impose sanctions on Russia?

The official with the surname Basta, which is very eloquent for the Russian ear, said that he could not accept the pressure exerted on President Alexander Vucic, and for this reason he favored the imposition of sanctions against Moscow. Moreover, if we follow the logic of this loud statement, such a move by Belgrade would become Vučić’s support “in protecting the interests of the state and the nation”. Therefore, Mr. Basta asked the government and all ministers to speak on this issue. The Serbian leader did not react to the minister’s speech and First Deputy Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, from the socialist party from which Mr Basta came to government, called the minister’s remarks a “personal opinion”. At the same time, news agencies cite Alexander Vulin, director of the Intelligence Agency for Security and Information, which is part of the Socialist Party leadership, who accused the Minister of Economy “of try to divide the cabinet on the issue of sanctions”. against Moscow and hide behind the president of Serbia.” Vulin urged Basta to resign voluntarily, but judging by the impatient silence of Serbian political elites, he is unlikely to take that advice.

It is also abundantly clear that the official’s gait and loud statements were not an emotional improvisation and reflected a split within the Serbian leadership. It touches not only on the multiple disagreements between the partners of the ruling coalition – the Serbian Progressive Party led by Vučić and the Socialist Party, but also on the internal turbulence within the movement of the socialists themselves. And this is understandable – in early February, the coalition almost collapsed during the discussion of the EU plan to normalize relations with Kosovo. As the media wrote, the president urged the deputies to accept this plan, the rejection of which threatened the introduction of European sanctions against Serbia. But the opposition in parliament 190 times (according to the head of state) accused Vučić and his supporters of betraying national interests, while the first deputy prime minister Dacic representing the socialists was not even mentioned by the reviews. In this regard, Vučić suspected a plot by an ally. The conflict that had erupted was then quashed and the president withdrew his threats to create a new coalition with another party. But although “spoons were found, the sediment remained”. Thus, Mr. Basta’s current speech was partly an echo of this political scandal. And not only.

With the imposition of sanctions on Russia, US pressure on Serbia will not stop, but will only intensify

It can be assumed that the adoption of the European plan for settling the situation in Kosovo was accompanied not only by public but also behind-the-scenes agreements between the parties. They, for obvious reasons, were not reflected on paper. However, after the adoption of this plan, documents surfaced about alleged Serbian arms deliveries to Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry has asked Belgrade for official information on this issue. Moscow has taken note of the explanations provided by the Serbian side on the non-involvement of the Serbian government and military factories in these deliveries. This gives reason to hope that the incident is over. Now we see a powerful member of the government, the Serbian economy minister, calling for sanctions against Moscow, which he says will protect against pressure from President Vučić. In this regard, it is worth recalling the words of the Serbian leader himself, made in March, that he “cannot swear not to impose sanctions on Russia.” Serbian economy minister deliberately equates Vučić’s continued presidency with introducing restrictive measures against Moscow, suggesting government and society choose what’s most important to them in the situation current. It is hard to believe that such an initiative was not agreed in advance with its curators.

“A strange position: America is pressuring Serbia, and the Serbian minister is calling for opposition to Russia. Perhaps it is better for the Serbian minister to speak out strongly against the pressure on his country? Russia, unlike the United States, has always respected Serbia and its people. With the imposition of sanctions against Russia, American pressure on Serbia will not stop, but will only intensify,” the spokeswoman commented. from the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, about Basta’s statements.
But for the Serbian authorities, the solution of the topical task – not to completely lose Kosovo and to remain afloat in the “European family” – may appear as a priority objective. In this regard, Vucic can be guided by the steps of Hungary, which, while publicly calling for the abandonment of the policy of sanctions against Moscow, is nevertheless compelled to support the restrictions against Russia adopted within the Union. European, although with some reservations. The current statement by the Serbian Minister of Economy suggests that the time has come for President Vučić to make a definitive choice that he cannot refuse and cannot delay any longer. This choice imposed by the Western collective seems extremely ruthless – the imposition of sanctions against Russia or political death.


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