US Wary of Russia’s Anti-EU and Anti-NATO Agenda in Serbia
The US sees countries aligning with Russia as a threat to democracy and destruction to the world order that Washington has made over the century. The West was caught off guard when Russia launched a full-scale military offensive in Ukraine in 2022; they had initially brushed it off as Moscow’s rhetoric to get Ukraine to bow down.
Support for Russia in the Western Balkans, Middle East and China has also rattled the United States and Europe. They fear that Moscow can foment instability in the Western Balkans with minimal effort and resources. Belarus, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina didn’t condemn Russian invasion of Ukraine, but Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia did. Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia condemned the Russian invasion, supported Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and even supported implementing sanctions against Russia.
The United States is wary about Serbia. The strong link between the Serbian and Russian Orthodox Churches remains the key instrument of the Kremlin’s influence in the region. Russia has increased its influence not just in Serbia, Republika Srpska and Montenegro, but also in North Macedonia.
Serbia – Russian Proxy
Like Belarus, Serbia is also a Russia proxy. Both countries did not join Europe’s anti-Russia consensus. Despite considerable support for EU membership across the Western Balkans, a large majority of Serbian citizens in particularly continue to consider Russia to be their true ally. Moreover, the influence of Russia as traditional partner for the Western Balkan countries has grown, reflecting a certain enlargement fatigue as a realistic path towards EU membership has proved rather slow.
And Serbia is a hard-core Russia supporter. After Russia invaded Serbia in February 2022, some far-right Serbian nationalists held anti-NATO and pro-Russia demonstrations in Belgrade. Religion also bonds many Serbians to Russia by shared Orthodox identities.
Serbia Balancing Act
But Serbia has been conducting a balanced foreign policy. Its observer status in the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) and its approach to global affairs reflects the international organization’s thinking. Russia very well knows and understands that no country in the heart of Europe will be warmer to Moscow than Serbia.
The Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin and Ivica Dacic, the speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, are the two strongest supporters of the Kremlin, with President Vucic saying that 85 percent of Serbians will support Russian policies no matter what happens.