What is actually happening in Serbia? Vucic’s idyll, regarding both domestic and foreign relations, seems to have suddenly fallen apart and it’s become clear that those relations are mysteriously related. Suddenly, we got internal turmoil – the mass protests against the vandal demolition in Savamala in order to build the illegal, megalomaniac, and unconstitutional “Belgrade Waterfront” project. Almost simultaneously with the protests, we landed in the middle of a crisis with the West whose consequences still can’t be foreseen. All this doesn’t seem to be a coincidence. Dramatic narrowing of foreign relations caused by the unsuccessful politics of balance between the West and Russia has also narrowed Vucic’s domestic options. Resistance to Vucic’s domestic, i.e. authoritative politics is a reflection of the loss of his foreign position. We can see proof of this every day. His foreign playing field is gone, and it’s taken his domestic playing field with it. The more Vucic is pressured from the outside, the more he is pressured from the inside. When we get to that point, all old bills come due.
Actually, what we see today has already happened several times. Serbia keeps fighting the same battle, which is always lost before it starts. The crisis with the West which broke at the meeting of the prime minister and the American Ambassador Kyle Scott and EU Ambassador Michael Davenport is a consequence of Serbia’s persistence in its state and national politics. It’s interesting that this diagnosis was published only in Vecernje novosti. There, it says that the main disputes are over Serbia’s relationship with Republika Srpska, military-technical agreement with Russia which will be signed during Medvedev’s visit which is scheduled for September, over-reliance on China, and the attitude of state officials towards Kosovo. Basically, the point of the conflict with the West is Serbia’s persistence in the state strategy whose foundations were laid by Slobodan Milosevic.
Just like several times before Vucic, Serbia was expected to change its strategic goals from the nineties. In the early nineties, Milosevic was told that his strategy to create a great Serbia doesn’t stand a chance, but he kept fighting a lost battle all the way to the NATO bombing and complete destruction of Serbia. His successors also continued to fight the same lost battle – they only changed the tactics. Every government after October 5th claimed to be pro-European, but never gave up on the strategic plan. The same thing happened with Kostunica who got a feasibility study (the last step to EU integration) and sent 15 accused to the Hague tribunal, but failed when it came to Mladic and Kosovo; then he passed a Constitution which said that Kosovo is part of Serbia and transferred it into the politics of Serbian military and political neutrality with Russia’s support. Tadic played the same game, improved by the slogan “both EU and Kosovo” and “four pillars of foreign policy”, whatever that meant. That tactic under the same strategy failed completely and took him with it. All politics and all politicians failed at the same issue.
For a moment it seemed that Vucic has taken another road, buying support of the West with cooperativity regarding Kosovo, which was confirmed by his signature on the Brussels agreement, which practically acknowledged Kosovo as an independent state. That attitude created an opportunity for Serbia to become independent of Russia and say the famous NO for the second time in our history. It was clear back then that Russia was the losing card and waiting for that card to work has proved to be in vain. If Vucic had the capacity to do that, which he didn’t, Serbia would be out of the crisis and at the EU’s doorstep. In reality, his politics, together with president Nikolic’s efforts, was implemented under the slogan “both EU and Russia”. And that, too, has ended, as evidenced by the latest shuffle. It happened sooner than we thought, due to the conflicts between the West and Russia. It happened sooner than it had to, due to the primitivism of dressed-up radicals who didn’t hesitate to drag western ambassadors through Informer’s mud on several occasions, accusing them of financing the protests (i.e. “the traitors”) and trying to portray Vucic as Gadhafi. The politics of balancing between the West and Russia is incredibly stupid and megalomaniacal for a small country, which has unnecessarily thrown itself into the dribbles of super powers, placing itself under their pressures and threats. By doing that, Serbia has condemned itself to permanent instability and eternal rambling. And all because of its impossible national strategy, which keeps being implemented, only with new tactics. It has fought and lost wars, destroyed itself and others; it tried to proclaim political and military neutrality relying on Russia in order to keep Kosovo; it relied on “four pillars of foreign policy” and the slogan “both EU and Kosovo”; and, finally, came the balancing between the West and Russia which has been predominant since Vucic and Nikolic came to power.
In order to better understand how we got into this situation, we should talk about Vucic’s game with the early elections. He made a key mistake there, since the cards were already dealt and he had great advantage, strong majority and weak opposition. He didn’t need Seselj in the parliament insulting the American ambassador, but he couldn’t resist him, so he landed himself in new problems with the Hague tribunal which reported Serbia to the UN for not cooperating with it by refusing to surrender the three radicals. Although his goal was probably to crush the hated opposition and take everything – it didn’t happen. The opposition has managed to save some of its important domains and win more mandates than he expected, thus throwing an unexpected blow, which made his victory look like a defeat even to himself. The elections have proved that the heyday of his power is over and that it’s now begun its descent, which has encouraged the citizens’ protests, spreading inevitably from Savamala to organized and mass resistance to replacement of the entire management of RT Vojvodina. Local citizens’ “fronts”, fighting for authentic community needs, against totalitarian power and the misery of everyday life in Serbia, are also spreading. They’ve won their field and caused a new internal dynamic.
The worst result of the early elections is introduction of Putin’s people and direct representatives of Moscow into the parliament. This gave Putin the right to call Vucic to Moscow and publicly and bluntly ask that an appropriate influence be given to his people, in order for relations between Serbia and Russia to grow. This led us directly into the crisis with the West. And that crisis has postponed inauguration of the government, since Vucic is not sure what to offer to the public, which slogan, what plan, and which people. When the government is formed, we will see the extent of his concession to the Russians. Hence the story about Cedomir Jovanovic as a potential member of the government, which is supposed to be a concession to the other side. Apparently, Vucic will have to accept Dacic and Bajatovic and possibly some others from SPS in the government, but we’ve yet to see whether Nenad Popovic, unconcealed Moscow representative, will make the team.
If we go back to the current turmoil, Maja Kocijancic’s comment of the cancelation of Vucic’s visit to Brussels (which wasn’t even scheduled) is important. She said that the US and EU are the biggest donors in Serbia, clearly saying that it’s time for Serbia to think about its actions and decide who its allies and friends are. Because this is what it’s actually about and where Serbia’s decades-long losing strategy can be resolved. Tactics and combinations are all used up and the time has come for Serbia to decide about its future. Bosko Jaksic was right when he said that the main trigger of the crisis with the West was the violation of the politics of balance between EU and Russia and Vucic’s visit to Moscow. But, that was merely a trigger.
I tried to show that behind the trigger of the latest conflict with the West is an old Serbian national and state political strategy. Serbia didn’t actually fight the West or harm it, but it fought and ruined itself. We’ve been destroying ourselves for decades by playing the same losing match. It’s about time we realized this. It’s about time we elected the politicians who would unveil this truth and desert the wrong national politics, which has always been just a cover for private interests, criminals, autocracy, partocracy, lawlessness, and backwardness.
Translated by Marijana Simic
Vesna Pešić, političarka, borkinja za ljudska prava i antiratna aktivistkinja, sociološkinja. Diplomirala na Filozofskom fakultetu u Beogradu, doktorirala na Pravnom, radila u Institutu za društvene nauke i Institutu za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju, bila profesorka sociologije. Od 70-ih pripada peticionaškom pokretu, 1982. bila zatvarana sa grupom disidenata. 1985. osnivačica Jugoslovenskog helsinškog komiteta. 1989. članica Udruženja za jugoslovensku demokratsku inicijativu. 1991. članica Evropskog pokreta u Jugoslaviji. 1991. osniva Centar za antiratnu akciju, prvu mirovnu organizaciju u Srbiji. 1992-1999. osnivačica i predsednica Građanskog saveza Srbije (GSS), nastalog ujedinjenjem Republikanskog kluba i Reformske stranke, sukcesora Saveza reformskih snaga Jugoslavije Ante Markovića. 1993-1997. jedna od vođa Koalicije Zajedno (sa Zoranom Đinđićem i Vukom Draškovićem). 2001-2005. ambasadorka SR Jugoslavije, pa SCG u Meksiku. Posle gašenja GSS 2007, njegovim prelaskom u Liberalno-demokratsku partiju (LDP), do 2011. predsednica Političkog saveta LDP-a, kada napušta ovu partiju. Narodna poslanica (1993-1997, 2007-2012).
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