By blocking Kosovo’s independence, Russia affirms its world-power status, creates a gap between Serbia and the West and slows down the integration of south-east Europe into EU and NATO, argues Berat Buzhala.
The author borrows Commissioner Olli Rehn’s words to describe Serbia’s situation – the latter must decide whether to continue on the road of integration into Euro-Atlantic structure or “enter the bear’s womb”, ie to develop an interdependency relationship with Russia. He therefore examines Russia’s strategic reasons for blocking Kosovo’s independence.
First, it allows the resurgent Russia to show the world how much its gas production has given it back “its former international muscle”. The second reason is that these circumstances allow Russia to rekindle the lost admiration of the Slavic states in the Balkans, which turned their backs on Moscow after the collapse of Communism.
At last, the most important reason for Russia to block Kosovo’s independence is to hinder the EU integration process of the ex-communist countries of south-east Europe, says Buzhala. Moscow will not hold back its support for Belgrade, as it is important for Putin to satisfy Serbia by not letting Kosovo gain a seat at the UN, the author states. It implies that Serbia will be in Russia’s debt for this contribution, he adds. Moreover, the Russian rhetoric will gradually gain in power with new economical linkages –such as the sale of a Serbian airline to a Russian operator, the granting of permission to gazprom to unlimited operations in Serbian land, and other such contracts.
Serbia and Russia will therefore be increasingly both politically and economically tied and Serbia will find it very hard to abandon the chosen path, outlines the author. Commissioner Rehn recently warned Serbia that it was in danger of being “suffocated within the womb of the proverbial Russian bear”. However, such threats have not impressed Serbia; Tomislav Nikolic, the vice-president of the opposition Serbian Radical Party, openly declared that Serbia could not continue to maintain relations with NATO and at the same time seek Russian help over Kosovo. When he asked for the country to take a clearer position on the matter, he meant taking a more pro-Russian stance, the author concludes.