Task Forces



by Nikola Lunić, Executive Director of the Council for Strategic Policies, Feb 6,2023 Published by Medija centar Belgrade

By now it should have been clear to everyone that we are contemporaries of another, I would say revolutionary, transformation of humanity. And regardless of the technological progress that has enabled us to live more comfortably and longer, we look toward the global future with trepidation and uncertainty. Although we are very curious about the fate of civilization, we are even more concerned about the perspective of our society and the Balkan geopolitical agony. In this, as a rule, we underestimate the cognitive blindness of our people, which facilitates the creation of a virtual world of justice and love. Since we hadn’t acknowledged the fall of the Berlin Wall, we are able to glorify the Soviet empire and the power of Russian weapons all our lives. However, the truth is that the Russian people have not succeeded in building a democratic society based on values, but have left their fate to autocratic visions that can easily destroy the Russian youth and its future, and even call into question the survival of the planet.

Unfortunately, voters in Serbia often choose their MPs from among those apologists with a tempting narrative and eloquent defense of collective illusions, but without national visions, political ideas and, above all, without a conscience. An unhappy century has ended for Serbia, and she still has no idea where to go in this one. Even in our strategic defense documents, we flirt with the interest of cooperation with NATO and with the determination to "expand and improve cooperation" with the pseudo-Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Despite all the global developments, we persist in maintaining the status quo. What is a paradox today, is the fact that we could rather expect the change to happen at the initiative of the ruling structure, than on the opposition champions who, since February 24, 2022, have never managed to muster enough political courage to criticize the brutal aggression against a sovereign country by a state that does not care about the universal right to territorial integrity.

All our citizens know very well today that the return of Kosovo and Metohija to the state legal framework of Serbia is just a phantasmagoria that cannot be realized without war. They would lose such a war without any doubt, and the concessions they would hypothetically sign during the capitulation would call into question the statehood itself, and certainly the sustainable future. Nevertheless, contrary to the argument based on strength, the united EU together with the USA launched a French-German proposal based on the strength of the argument, a perspective for the region, and a civilizational step forward in the historically complicated Serbian-Albanian relations. Despite the fact that both sides have objections, or precisely because of it, this proposal provides an alternative to the current continuity of tensions and a basis for the future coexistence of Serbs and Albanians. However, the extremists on both sides calculate exclusively in the perception of the conquered territory, that is, their congenital limitations with state borders. It only shows us how far we are from the European idea and collective security, as well as what we are ready to sacrifice for the utopian ideas of ethical nihilists and lucrative avarice.

What the opposition is ready for is only a commotion in the National Assembly (it seems that it is only for show in front of cameras) in support of the fictitious sovereignty that Serbia lost long ago in that part of its territory. And of course, they ignore the fact that we lost part of our sovereignty over the part of Central Serbia that Djindjic and Vučić regained in 2001 and 2015 when the land and air security zones were abolished. The current behavior of the opposition and especially their silent attitude towards the war in Ukraine strengthens my belief that it will probably be even worse for us in this century than in the last. With such oppositional defenders of the Russian world and quasi-franchises of the Serbian world, with their lack of political solutions and an excess of populism, it is unlikely that we will earn the right to a tomorrow in this global geopolitical context.

The opposition's silence on all the tragedy in Ukraine only reminds me that their support to Russia's brutal aggression enabled them their parliamentary benches from which they are now profitably silent and contribute to the breakdown of social visions and postulates of national values. Although the story of their illusions and delusions is not uninteresting, one must have the courage and skill to embellish the collapse of national values and state interests as a compensatory consolation to their voters without any intention, as a society, to remove the fetters of history. It was always blasphemous to talk about possible Euro-Atlantic integrations from the parliamentary benches, but now the proponents of the European perspective have joined that aforesaid unanimous and tacit compact. Unfortunately for Serbia and its youngest generations, parties and movements that incorporated democracy and Europeanism into their statutes and ideologies, but silently first trampled on them and then crushed them, joined it. With that, the opposition's commitment died, and so the government's corrective and the credibility of the political alternative gradually disappeared like a damaged ship slowly but surely sinking into the dark depths of the sea.

 At foreign policy crossroads like the one Serbia is currently at, a special responsibility would be expected from representatives of the people and public speakers, who, in theory, should be dedicated exclusively to the interests of Serbia, its values and the perception of a sustainable future. But as a rule, it is our fate to be betrayed, from beliefs, from friends and godfathers, from history and from hope. Although we are not surprised by the hypocrisy of the politicians whom we trusted, we continue to ignore and minimize the consequences that a mistake in voting in elections generates for us. Certainly politicians, with a deficit of political solutions and a surplus of hints of physical conflicts over the nation's vital issues, cannot restore our national dignity, let alone offer us the hope of a better perspective.

At the recent parliamentary debate on the French-German proposal, I expected constructive proposals on strengthening our negotiating position and the presentation of a comprehensive analysis of consequences and benefits. The war in Ukraine has become an essential generator of cohesion in the West, which is increasingly losing tolerance towards Serbia's neutral position. Despite the postulates of a democratic society, populism has long been present in the political narrative of many EU countries, which to a greater or lesser extent also influences state decisions. Citizens of many EU countries do not understand Serbia's military neutrality and the reasons for not imposing sanctions on the aggressor, and the worst thing is that they don't even want to understand it. I don't blame them for that, because even many citizens of Serbia do not understand the concept of military, but not foreign policy, or neutrality of our country. And they especially do not understand the reasons for the age-old decadence of our society, which generated the current marginalization and insignificance of the Serbian factor in the international community. In the end, it is always easier to attribute it to hatred towards us or international injustice and thus absolve oneself of any responsibility.

But is it really so, that is, do we present ourselves as innocent victims just because we have been defeated? Unfortunately, in the Balkan rhapsody of war and tragedies, there are no innocents, and our guilt is greatest towards our own people and our own society. From the moment we introduced arrogance into foreign policy, we became losers, without friends and without brothers, humiliated in the eyes of the world, but also in our own. In the modern world, it is not possible to behave in a fiercely nationalistic and resolutely universalistic manner. In essence, it represents the current crossroads where we are now, faced with a choice between an outdated society condemned to cultural and moral extinction, or a European society that enjoys the privileges of the rule of law and collective security.

When elaborating on the consequences of the possible rejection of the harmonized EU proposal, many analysts in the media point out that they do not believe that the accession negotiations with the EU will be stopped, ignoring public opinion in the EU countries themselves. Many EU citizens are even against the visa-free regime that Serbia enjoys, and especially against donations and non-refundable loans for projects in our country. When it comes to the interruption and withdrawal of investments from Serbia, the agreement of public speakers is almost unanimous because they believe that the interests of capital, will ignore their state or EU interests. How naive do you have to be to believe that just one recommendation from the top of the government would not generate the withdrawal of all investments from Serbia by some multinational company? An identical reaction of the capital could be expected after a "suggestion" by the intelligence structures or after a media campaign that would cause harmful consequences for the profitability of such a company. Despite this, many analysts continue with the thesis that investors are guided in their decisions solely by profitability in the weak Serbian market. That's simply not true, and their dishonesty is, from my perspective, just as depraved as hypocrisy.

 However, what worries us the most and is not in the focus of the public, is the third consequence presented to us by President Vučić. It reads that, in case of rejection of the agreement, Serbia could also face other measures that will show how those who are not in agreement with the EU must go through. In other words, regardless of what Serbia wants and what its interests are, we are strategically dependent on the environment, and we are security vulnerable. International crises represent a process that is developing, but which should be recognized, and anticipated and thus enable us to prevent devastating consequences. If we don’t face the facts and ignore the conflict development scenarios, it is very easy to predict the abyss in which we can find ourselves; from the abolition of the visa-free regime, through the withdrawal of all investments, isolation, and sanctions, to the media preparation of the conflict that was always easy to generate in the Balkans.

In unpredictable global geopolitical circumstances, without tolerance and attempts at coexistence, this scenario is realistic. War does not erupt, nor is it declared overnight. The genesis of a crisis always has characteristic beginnings, such as the benign impossibility of agreement on non-acceptance of non-papers, but it quickly takes on an irreversible spiral of unilateral decisions that without exception leads to conflict and tragic consequences. Regardless of the traditionally correct diplomatic vocabulary, there should be no doubt that the West has lost its patience or is close to it. And once the airplanes take off from Aviano, it is too late to change the foreign policy or harmonize it with the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU.

 Without the intention of causing uneasiness or fear, I think it is only fair that the people must know the truth openly and without twisted diplomatic vocabulary and to know that making a choice is still a possibility. It is still not too late to support the signing of the Franco-German proposal, nor is it too late to show everyone's responsibility in building a sustainable future for Serbia and the region. We often associate our dead demographics with historical context without asking whether all those wars and pandemics were the cause or just the effect. That's why in moments of crisis and big decisions, we must look 20 or 30 years ahead to see how a safe and prosperous society should look, through the eyes of an innocent child, and then work in earnest to make true such pure hopes.

Nikola Lunić, Executive Director of the Council for Strategic Policies


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