In the pre-election atmosphere in Serbia, which is being fired up, the visit of Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin seemed like the opening of the famous Russian doll matryoshka. Only this time, it did not look like a smiling young woman with blue eyes and red cheeks, but more like a big pistolero, a politician in an official suit, with gray political ideas. As is the custom, the largest doll was meant for the prime minister, who was given a miniature model of the long dreamed-of weapon S 300. The second largest matryoshka went to president Nikolic, who received a symbolic outpouring of grace and Putin’s support for the defense of Kosovo from the cunning plan of the EU. The third doll was meant for minister Zorana Mihajlovic, who got a threat with “Cologne 2” in the package, while the smallest matryoshka went to Vojislav Seselj. He was presented with a unique Russian box with the motif of Crimea, as a symbol of the new Russian power, which was able to “return this peninsula within the borders of Russia”. Zorana Mihailovic, probably in accordance with the command from her boss, was the only one to publically speak out against Rogozin’s dark meditations on European integration, advising him to “mind his own business” and to leave us Europeans alone.
The question is: which part of this opening of the Russian matryoshka didn’t please the Serbian government: 1) S 300, 2) support for the non-recognition of Kosovo, 2) “Cologne 2” or 4) the visit to Seselj? In other words, which item doesn’t belong to this logical string? One would think Rogozin’s “Cologne 2” is the only interloper, but, once you put it in context, this seems like a logical sequence in which each of Rogozin’s matryoshkas stems from the previous. Serbia was disturbed by Croatia’s intention to buy a Norwegian rocket system and so Russian aid was put on the first plane. The arms are offered at “reasonable price.” Those arms are meant to be used in a possible conflict with a NATO member, i.e. Croatia, just like Milosevic, Pavkovic and Lazanski announced in the spring of 1999, when we were negotiating with other Russian babushkas – Ivanov and Chernomyrdin. Naturally, Vucic was “loyal” to his European path, while hugging the model of S 300. Really, who is the interloper here? The European Union, possibly.
Relations with Croatia worsened so drastically during the last year, right in the middle of the propagation of European values by Vucic’s government. Closed borders, cold trade days, and now, the rattling of nonexistent arms. Serbian political leaders escalated the decision on Croatia’s acquisition of arms to the highest level. The decision is: Serbia is in danger, because, as explicitly said by minister Dacic, those rocket systems won’t be pointed at any Western city, but, primarily, at Serbia. All of them seem to forget that the EU and NATO zone begin right after Batrovci. They also forget the so-called Russo-Serbian humanitarian center in Nis. Rogozin’s visit with a catalogue of Russian arms on sale diminished the government’s euro-integration efforts, if such efforts are really being made by Vucic and his ministers. Vucic’s logic is strange, shaped primarily by a radical’s fear of the West and a progressive’s readiness to identify with the West. But, Rogozins never come alone. All this was Putin’s response to the West, made possible by the Serbian prime minister and president. Seselj simply confirmed his ideas and demonstrated superiority over his “former” party colleagues.
Serbian officials are familiar with the politics of Russian matryoshkas. It is very often practiced when creating party hierarchy, in a manner patented a long time ago by Milosevic and Seselj. Thus, Vucic and Dacic are the innermost and smallest replicas of their former leaders. When babushkas are produced, those smallest dolls are painted first. They look fresh the longest. That is why Croatian defense minister Ante Kotromanovic said, in the middle of the argument over arms between Serbia and Croatia, that “Vucic, Nikolic, and Dacic were the champions of four wars in former Yugoslavia, so they were able to prevent the loss of tens of thousands of lives, if only their politics had been more peaceful twenty years ago”. Given the implementation of matryoshka politics, Kotromanovic hit the bullseye. Such open verbal conflicts of representatives of Serbian former wartime elite (and today’s pro-European elite) cause confusion, which, this time, was most clearly demonstrated by the president’s media advisor Stanislava Pak.
Specifically, in an effort to deny the truth of minister Kotromanovic’s statement, advisor Pak said that “back then (during the nineties) Nikolic had no influence on whether the war was going to happen or how long it would last,” and that “Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic participated in the last war in Yugoslavia as a citizen and as a representative of the opposition”. These lies, which are part of a strategy to create a new identity of those who were “formerly” Seselj’s radicals, can pass for truth only in Serbia. While it is clear to everyone that the “unbundling” of the president’s matryoshka would inevitably lead to the “hidden” Chetnik duke, this invention of Nikolic as a citizen, a peacemaker, and a member of the opposition works as an irrefutable argument in the public discourse. After all, “unbundling” of the prime minister would take us in the same direction. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be hugging Rogozin’s S 300 model so wholeheartedly, a weapon which the Russian deputy prime minister proudly said that Iran has finally acquired. (Great recommendation!) Also, he added that “his party would support any government which would give up the NATO and EU integration process and turn to Russia”. Citizen Nikolic loved all of this. The prime minister, too, I believe. Zorana Mihajlovic was the only one to react, but she is a woman, and within a patriarchal, militaristic political community like the one in Serbia, women take the unpleasant roles, like criticizing a guest or signing problematic contracts, like the one on the Belgrade Waterfront. Men and citizens, Vucic and Nikolic, must remain “clean” because they have politics to run. Even while playing with Russian souvenirs, which could eventually cost us much more than the S 300 missile system.
Translated by Marijana Simic