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          • Year: 2009
          • Serbia between NATO and Russia

          • Milorad Timotic, Deputy President of the Centre for Civil-Military Relations Managerial Board (E-novine, section "Dialogue", August 28th, 2009)

        • Serbia has always been grateful to Russia for her help, and has never aligned itself with the foes of Russia. Therefore, eventual accession of Serbia to NATO, should Russia be against it, would be for the first time the case when Serbia would be joining some military-political organization with not always friendly attitude towards Russia. Therefore when the time comes for Serbia to opt for joining NATO, Serbia should ask for a conditional membership. In other words the membership with a clear stipulation that Serbia would never be a part of any operation directed against Russia.

          Should Serbia become NATO member and why?

          It is difficult to clearly answer to this question. As every decision of historical importance, this dilemma also implies both positive and negative aspects. Joining NATO would certainly give a boost to better cooperation with the armies of the neighboring countries - Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia - already members of the Alliance. Membership in NATO would allow much better and improved military and security cooperation in the region of Southeastern Europe. Furthermore, it would give an opportunity to the Army of Serbia for education and trainings in military schools and centers in the NATO member countries, as well as the possibility to receive support, military equipment and armament. Not less important is the fact that the Article 5 of the Atlantic Charter would oblige every member country to defend Serbia in case of any foreign peril. These are some of the potential advantages, but we cannot be sure that it would be possible to enforce the Article 5 in case some unfavorable geostrategic circumstances for NATO occur.

          It seems that in current balance of powers, Serbia is in special position in comparison to the other states of Western Balkans. It is not unreal that only Serbia, of all the other neighboring states remains out of NATO. Is such a position acceptable? We had that situation during the time of participation in Non-aligned Movement, but is this position realistic in the present times? All depends on the consideration of a strategic situation, which has radically changed since then, but also on our capabilities. It is a common opinion that the possibility of outbreak of an interstate war in Europe is almost impossible, nevertheless Serbia cannot stand alone without any allies. There are two options: either to join NATO or to remain neutral with the close cooperation with Russia. It is also possible to cooperate with both sides, like in the time of SFRY, because today they are not opposed politically and military, as they were in the times of Cold War.

          Moreover, NATO itself is also in a certain state of crisis, due to the lack of real opponent. The fundamental question is who this powerful and very expensive organization is. NATO interventions out of the zone of responsibility, Iraq and Afghanistan, proved to be unsuccessful until now and probably the final outcome will be also disappointing.

          Occasionally, distinct European and American views are manifested within NATO - which was visible when the controversial decisions about Iraq and Afghanistan were adopted. Americans tend to come with decisions based on emotions, even prejudices. Unfortunately, they are even able to construct the intelligence data in order to justify those decisions.

          The above mentioned aspects show that the issue of joining NATO does not represent a type of question “to be or not to be”, as it is often presented, yet the question of concrete strategic calculations, strategic-security assessments and the one of achieving the maximum possible consensus on the national political level, as well as the certain support of the public opinion in the country. This is the reason why this question is not present on the political agenda at the moment.

           Which are the obstacles to eventual joining of Serbia to NATO?

          There are few reasons why accession to NATO is not currently in focus in Serbia. Most of the former socialist countries had the national referendum prior to becoming a full member of the Alliance. In many of those countries it was difficult to reach a consensus with the public, dominantly because of the costs of the full membership.  In Slovenia, the public opinion was very doubtful before giving “a green light” to the Government for joining the Alliance. In Serbia, this situation is even more under dispute, given the NATO intervention in 1999 which has created negative sentiments and attitudes in public towards this organization. Most probably today, and even in close future, the issue of joining NATO would not get sufficient support of the citizens. Indeed, the media coverage of this topic would have outstanding influence.

          Second and very subtle reason for restraint in connection with the issue of joining NATO is the complexity of relations between Russia and NATO and the Serbian-Russian relations. In 1997 NATO and the Russian Federation have signed the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security in Paris. At the time, this was appraised as a historic achievement which was predestined to open a new era in European security relations based on democracy and cooperative security. It was perceived that it gave a framework for the creation of strong, stable and long-term partnership between NATO and Russia. Based on the Founding Act, the Permanent Joint Council NATO-Russia was formed in order to provide consulting and cooperation on principles of reciprocity and transparency, and to act jointly against security threats in Europe. However, later development of the military-political situation in Europe and Asia, especially economic and military strengthening of Russia and its demands for greater global role and influence, as well as its aspirations to mark the neighborhood as its exclusive sphere of influence, gave boost to the clashes of geostrategic interests between NATO and Russia. Hence the present relations between Russia and NATO are passing through phases of ups and downs, where future development remains uncertain. Later Russia became member of the Partnership for Peace, which is in fact the partnership with NATO in mission of peace preservation, as well as in developing many other types of cooperation with the Alliance.

          The relations between Russia and Serbia are another important reason to carefully examine all the facts joining NATO. If Serbia has had a constant in its foreign orientation during last two centuries, then it is marked with a friendship and cooperation with Russia and Russia’s help in the critical moments of Serbian nation state creation. The question is whether The First Serbian Uprising would have survived for nine years without the Russian military and financial help. Russian soldiers were fighting side by side with Karadjordje’s soldiers in Timok area, in Eastern Serbia, in Loznica, and especially they played a decisive role in the Battle of Varvarin in 1810, when Serbia’s freedom was under the greatest threat. Almost 70 years later, during the war with Turkey in 1876, Russia entered the war to help Serbs. Same happened in the course of the World War I. Serbia was always grateful to Russia for its help and never formed an alliance with the opponents of Russia. Therefore, if Serbia joins NATO without Russian approval, it would be the first time that Serbia entered one political-military organization whose attitude towards Russia is not always friendly.  Hence, when the time comes for Serbia to decide whether to join NATO, it should be some form of conditional membership, with a clear stipulation that Serbia would never participate in any NATO action directed against Russia.

          Could Serbia become an EU member without joining NATO first?

          Recently, usual procedure was that candidates for the EU membership first join NATO, and then the EU. However, as with any diplomatic issue, we cannot exclude the possibility of an exception which would confirm the rule. I personally think that it is possible for Serbia to become a member of the EU without joining NATO. There are examples of Austria and Finland which are the EU member states, but not members of NATO. That was of the outturn of previous geopolitical constellation - both of these countries were forced to accept a certain restriction by the peace accords after the World War II.  It is unlikely that the European Union would consider special conditions Serbia encounters today and accept the country into full membership without an obligation to join NATO first.

          Does the official concept of military neutrality represent the adequate alternative for membership in NATO?

           If it is possible to achieve harmonized relations with both NATO and Russia, it would be probably possible. It is not clear if the neutrality cost more than the NATO membership, but again that is the issue of calculations and concrete agreements with allies.

          Does the NATO membership have impact on the country’s rating and inflow of international investments?

          It is realistic to assume that the inflow of foreign investments is predominantly dependent on economic and security stability of the country. Nevertheless, the investments are not coming only from West, but also from other countries for which the NATO membership is irrelevant.

          Translated by Igor Novakovic, CCMR Intern

          Proofread by Barbora Mašínová, BCSP Intern

        • Tags: Serbia, nato, russia, membership, European Union, eu, Serbia and Russia
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