“Serbia does not need anyone’s military bases. It will maintain military neutrality and maintain relations with allies. It will not be ashamed of its relations with Russia, China, the USA and the EU, but it will take care of itself,” said the country’s president Aleksandar Vučić in an interview with Serbian television channel TV Prva at the end of last week.
This interview was a kind of response to the statement made by the Russian ambassador in Belgrade Alexander Bochan-Kharchenko to the Russian media a few days earlier. “Russian military bases establishment in Serbia is a sovereign matter of this country, besides, it is a matter of the interests of the Russian Federation itself,” said the Russian ambassador.
The ambassador’s words caused quite a stir in Serbia. Many Serbian media outlets and experts began to reproach Russia for “deliberately harming Serbia’s interests by disseminating information about the Russian military base at a time when the West is closely monitoring the country, where a new government is being formed and the issue of joining the sanctions against Russia is being resolved.” And the influential and pro-government Belgrade publication “Blic” even accused Russia of “starting a hybrid war against Serbia.”
Against this background, the Serbian president’s words about the country’s intentions to maintain military neutrality sounded quite restrained and were perceived as an attempt, on the one hand, not to push the topic of the Russian military base, and on the other hand, not to damage relations with Moscow, which, as A. Vučić himself repeated more than once, ” supplies Serbia with the cheapest gas in Europe and supports it on the Kosovo issue.”
Kommersant’s sources in Belgrade, who are familiar with the position of the Serbian authorities, explain the cautious words of the president also by the fact that the military cooperation between Serbia and the United States has recently intensified, primarily at the military base near Bujanovac in the south of the country.
It is interesting that the statements of the Russian ambassador, which caused so much noise in Serbia, came only a week after the statement of the authoritarian leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, about the policy of the official Belgrade. “Serbia would like to sit on three chairs – the EU, the USA, Russia, but it will no longer succeed,” warned the leader of Belarus, a “friend of the Serbs”.
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