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Kovacic Interview to Telegraf

"What have we received from the West and what from Russia? Let Serbia do its thing and more importantly, keep pushing for the Open Balkans"

  • Interviewed by Marija Petrovic, Telegraf RS
  • "Let Serbia do its thing and more importantly, keep pushing for the Open Balkans"

The founder and president of East-West Bridge Jovan Kovacic noted on the occasion of the arrival of senior American officials in Belgrade that it is safe to say that Serbia is in the most politically challenging situation, but that the Americans will not insist that Serbia impose sanctions on Russia, like some in Europe do, but, in his opinion, the pressure on Belgrade "not sit on two chairs" will grow.

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and will later have a meeting with Prime Minister Ana Brnabić. She is accompanied by the US special envoy Gabriel Escobar. The visit comes only days after a group of US senators were in Belgrade.

Asked whether Serbia is in the most politically challenging situation in the last 10 years, Kovacic told "certainly" and added that the war in Ukraine has changed a lot and given extra weight to every next step of Serbia, but also the EU and USA.

- Now everything is seen with completely different eyes, and it is normal that the situation is incomparably more serious, notwithstanding the fact that it can be a great opportunity for us - Kovačić believes.

He further explains that Serbia can now decide where its future lies and in which direction it should go to gain the most benefit.

- Russia did the same in the 90's, so there is nothing to it. There is not much love between nations and peoples, but only interest. At this moment, the situation for us, as far as America is concerned, has never been better in the last 20 years or so. The very frequency of the visits by American officials proves a lot - how much interest there is in the region, and in Belgrade, and in the role of Belgrade. Compare for yourself what it all looked like 20 years ago and you will see a sharp upward trajectory. That chart goes straight up so that Serbia is recognized as the main "driver" of all changes and an anchor for the security and stability of the entire region – Kovacic said.

The US Embassy said that the topics of talks with Serbian officials would be the improvement of European integration, regional stability, and energy diversification, and when asked if we could interpret that as imposing sanctions on Russia, Kovacic said he thought Americans would not insist as much some in Europe do.

- It is much more important for the Americans to have stability here, and they are realistic, because they understand well that our sanctions against Russia will not hurt Moscow much, it would hurt us much more. I am only referring to economic aspects, political ones are a different story - said Kovacic.

As he says, as far as he is informed, sanctions are not the focal issue, but the issue of sitting on two chairs which does appear to be one and the same thing, but not quite - is.

- As the whole situation escalates, so will the pressure grow for Serbia to stop sitting on two chairs - he said.

Asked what Serbia will get if it chooses the American or European chair, Kovacic invites everyone to compare what they have received so far from the United States and the Union, and what from Russia.

- Well, people, so let's do some comparing! Let’s forget our emotional relationships. Just count what we have received from the Americans, the EU in the last 20 years, how much non-refundable money or aid, grants, and compare that with what we have received from Russia? We have received so much more from the EU, that is what our people live on here, and even those who, unfortunately, are leaving the country, I do not see them running to Moscow but going West instead. There must be a reason. I simply don't understand those who don't see that - Kovacic is clear.

Therefore, we do not have many choices at this moment, he added.

- Just as Russia chose its interest at a certain historical moment and went to the side where it did. And we forgave that (voted for the imposition of sanctions on Yugoslavia), so Russia will probably forgive us if we leave it - says Kovacic.

Recently, Marija Zaharova said that Russia notes the statements by Serbian politicians about the pressure exerted on them, as well as that Russia is our friend. - Maybe we have different views on friendship. We always support our friends in difficult moments - she said, which part of the public interpreted as a kind of "rap on the knuckles" from Russia.

When asked how such statements from Moscow go under the radar, but not those from the EU, due to which support for European integration is falling, Kovacic answered that, in his opinion, pro-Russian forces are much better organized, and on the other hand, conditionally speaking the EU bears some of the blame because its messages could be more skillful and better.

As he says, EU is quite clear when talking about what we need to do, but the problem starts when we come to the response what we shall get in return, then the messages wildly differ.

- One of the most interesting messages was from Viola von Cramon, with whom I do not agree in 99% of cases, but she said that the EU will always know how to reward those who came to the rescue at a given critical moment - said Kovacic. When asked does this also applies to energy diversification, he answered: "And that".

Asked to comment on Emanuel Macron's victory in the French presidential election and his change of rhetoric from no enlargement to clear positive signals about Serbia, Kovacic said that "Ukraine has done its part" there as well, because, as he says, the EU stakeholders are now aware that things can change overnight.

- We all knew that it was just a matter of time before Russia would invade Ukraine, so now the whole of Europe is in disbalance. In this whole story, we must stick to our goal of joining the EU for ourselves, so we can implement certain reforms, and pass certain systemic laws that will make this country even more modern and attractive for investment. We have already made a big step forward - Kovacic noticed.

In that sense, he mentioned Belgrade’s skyline. - My friends who come can't believe it, neither can I, when I start counting all the cranes in Belgrade, a lot is happening, but it could be even better and attract even more investments - said Kovacic.

In any case, that is the only way forward, Kovacic is clear, but he also notes that it is a valid question of what the EU will look like when we become a member, because, he noted, the EU is facing big problems.

- Let Serbia do its own thing and what is very important is we keep pushing for the Open Balkans because that way we are actually practicing joining the EU - Kovačić concludes.

At the end of the conversation, Kovacic asked those who say that Serbia will remain without Russia's support in the UN Security Council regarding Kosovo if it imposes sanctions, - why are they neglecting the flaunted “steel friendship” with China?


Emisija Omotavanje: Kovacic o Otvorenom Balkanu, uticaju SAD...

Da li SAD i EU podržavaju Otvoreni Balkan? Koliko prisustvo Gabrijela Eskobara i drugih jakih imena američke politike govori da Vašington preuzima inicijativu i u BiH, i u vezi sa pitanjem KiM?
O ovim temama, ali i o tome kako je u Beogradu 2019. godine održan supertajni sastanak predstavnika talibana i vlade Avganistana, u emisiji Odmotavanje govoriće Jovan Kovačić, prvi čovek organizacije East West Bridge. @jovan_kovacic

Voditelj Jovan Palavestra @jpalavestra

Odmotavanje, TV Vesti, 22h @odmotavanje @televizija_vesti


Escobar meets EWB BiH Youth Reps

We want peace and cooperation, education and jobs, prospects, not politicos' divisive and inflammatory rhetoric, BiH youth tell DAS Escobar in Sarajevo

US Ambassador to BiH Eric Nelson hosted a working dinner on Sunday, November 7, with members of the Think Tank organization "East West Bridge" in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as members of the organization "Youth for Peace", on Gabriel Escobar’s, arrival in Sarajevo. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the US Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Department of State, is on a fact-finding mission to several countries in the region.

On that occasion, the members of these organizations discussed the visions of the future of BiH with an emphasis on young people in BiH and their stronger role, as well as involvement in future positive processes in BiH and the region.

During the dinner, the message was reiterated that there will be no war in BiH and that young people should dedicate themselves to a common brighter future, their further education and active role in building a better society of equal opportunities and equal rights for all citizens in BiH. The youth pressed for closer cooperation among the ethnic divide, better education, jobs and secure future in a stable country. They also voiced their dissatisfaction over the repeated war mongering and divisive rhetoric of their ethnic leaders which practically never diminished even though the Dayton Peace Accords were signed back in 1995.   

Meeting with the representatives of the youth of BiH before any political leader or stakeholder was a clear message of a new course by the US administration and a missive to the traditional diplomatic pecking order.

The working dinner was attended by Enna Zone Đonlić, Damjan Jugović, Filip Novaković, Daniel Eror and Robert Jovanović, President of the EWB Board of Directors in BiH,


Economist Drasko Acimovic for "Avaz": There is no time to wait for the elections, this government must go immediately

Acimovic: Clear and stark messages

We were told that the situation in the security system was disturbed and that we were already endangering the European security system, says Acimovic.

Acimovic: Clear messages

These are very clear and most powerful messages to Bosnia and Herzegovina so far, economist and former diplomat Drasko Acimovic told Avaz, commenting on the European Commission's report on BiH's decline on the path to EU membership. Acimovic points out that the disintegration of the BiH security system is one of the problems that causes the most concern in the EU.

Security system compromised

- They told us that the situation in the security system was disturbed and that we were already endangering the European security system. After the resignation of Minister Radončić, the total disintegration of the security system began, and at this moment it is crucial for the EU that their security is not endangered. And in such circumstances, their security is endangered, because there is no coordination within BiH and there could be problems at any moment. We have an uncontrolled entry of migrants for whom we do not know at all who they are. The flow of crime is no longer under control, and they understood that - says Acimovic.

The EU's messages are that BiH has made the region unhappy, and that its citizens are also a collateral damage to BiH's corrupt politicians.

- They told us, not that we are not ready for Europe, but we are not ready for ourselves either. For two years now, I have been talking about the irritating messages of certain officials from BiH that the European Commission should give us candidate status, in order to motivate us. It's like a bandit robbing a bank, and then he goes back to it and asks for a loan to fix his financial situation. After they robbed everything that the EU sent to help BiH during the pandemic, and you can see through these scandals that everything was stolen, they think that they should be rewarded - Acimovic explains.

It is the last moment, and encouragement in that direction is coming from the world, for the citizens of BiH to raise their voices.

The authorities need to leave

- These people must leave urgently. There is no time to wait for the 2022 elections. That is the message of the EU - with these people who are currently in power, you cannot go further. I think that the citizens of BiH know very well how they should leave and that every day of prolonging this agony only creates greater poverty, misfortune, greater mortality, something that can no longer really be endured - says Drasko Acimovic.

Our interlocutor emphasizes that the situation in BiH can no longer be resolved by statements and announcements, warnings or recommendations, that the criminalized government will not leave voluntarily and that we must accept that foreigners will not solve the problems in the country.

A. Bajramović 10/19/2021

Source: Avaz


70th anniversary of US-Yugoslav Military Assistance Pact

Crucial History Lesson Revisited & Dr Bojan Dimitrijevic Exhibition Notes

East West Bridge had the privilege to participate in the inauguration of an exhibition commemorating a widely ignored episode in the history of Serbia - USA relations, at the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, opened by Minister Branko Ružić. In 1951, following the turning point in Yugoslav defence policy brought on by the Tito-Stalin dispute, a Military Assistance Pact was signed between Yugoslav President Marshal Tito and the US ambassador in Belgrade. Over the next 7 years, the Yugoslav People's Army received equipment, trainings and overall support to its qualitative and quantitative growth from its US counterpart to the total sum of some $800 mln at THAT time - 600 aircraft, 1000 tanks, 20k assorted vehicles and thousands od small arms and ammo, plus manufacturing licences. Not to mention the political side of it all. Moreover, the Yugoslav Army was incorporated in the defence plans of NATO in the case of an eventual conventional war in Europe against the USSR and its satellites. Some of the pictures from the exhibition are shown below - a testament to the rich history Serbia and the USA share. The inauguration was attended by HE Ambassador Anthony Godfrey, Commander of the Special Operations Command Europe David H. Tabor, MP and founder of the Serbian American Friendship Congress Vladimir Marinković and EWB founder Jovan Kovačić.

An important message I shared in my speech yesterday is that 70 years ago Stalin was poised to invade Yugoslavia. The Western military build up of the Yugoslav army changed the course of history. Seven decades have gone by and the wise saying is more important than even: Those who do not draw lessons from history are doomed to repeat it.

Dr Bojan Dimitrijevic:



The turning point in the Yugoslavia’s defence policy after in the Cold War occurred in 1948, when Tito-Stalin dispute, came into the open with the expulsion of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia from the Communist Information Bureau in June 1948. It has been estimated by the US officials that Yugoslavia was of the direct importance to the security of the United States. The Military Assistance Pact was signed between the Yugoslav President Marshal Tito and the US ambassador in Belgrade on 14 November 1951. Yugoslavia was introduced in the framework of the Mutual Defence Aid Programme (MDAP). During this programme, Tito’s Army received its first jet fighters, radars, helicopters, thousands of different vehicles, hundreds of modern tanks and artillery pieces. Following the shift in the Yugoslav foreign policy, Marshal Tito decided to cancel further aid deliveries in late 1957. American weaponry was a tool of the unusual Cold War Alliance between a communist renegade state and Western world. Moreover, it was a true continuation of the Second World War alliance between two nation.

During most of the 1951 negotiations between Yugoslav and US military officials were held. Key meetings for the start of deliveries of the military equipment were during the visits of the Yugoslav Chief of Staff, General Koča Popović, to the United States. The Military Assistance Pact was signed between the Yugoslav President Marshal Tito and the US ambassador in Belgrade on 14 November 1951. Yugoslavia was introduced in the framework of the Mutual Defence Aid Programme (MDAP). Prior to signing of the Mutual Assistance Pact, several military exercises were performed to the Chief of Combined General-Staff General Collins, who visited Yugoslavia. The aim of his visit was gathering the information about the Yugoslav Army qualities and possibilities. Marshal Tito showed enormous interest in MDAP deliveries. He was especially interested in the Air Force. In the middle of January 1952, Tito visited Pula air base to inspect just delivered F-47Ds. Tito's remarks in front of the Yugoslav airmen were more than satisfying.

By signing of Military Assistance Pact, the Yugoslav Government permitted that a certain number of the US military and civil personnel to be accepted and allowed to monitor process of MDAP deliveries. In December 1951 American Mission Assistance Staff (AMAS) manned with 30 officers - commanded by the General Harmony, reached Belgrade. Simultaneously, the Detachment “for Acceptance of the Military Aid” was formed in the Yugoslav Ministry of the Defence. Those two institutions had an exclusive task to carry the procedure of the acceptance and distribution of the weapons and equipment for JNA. Yugoslavia constantly insisted that number of the AMAS personnel should be limited.

The era when Yugoslavia was part of the MDAP was also characteristic with visits of senior US military officials. Among them were the representatives of the Ministry of Defence, Combined General Staff, US Army, USAF and US Navy. They were especially frequent in the early stages of Programme and most of them have official talks with Marshall Tito. In August 1952, US Secretary of the Army Frank Pace visit JNA. Most spectacular visit was the one of the 6th Fleet USN headed by Vice Admiral Cassady aboard aircraft carrier USS “Coral Sea”. Tito was guest on the carrier, and had a opportunity to see the air exercise made in his honour. In September 1953, the US Army delegation at large manoeuvre in Zagorje was headed by the AMAS chief General Harmony, seen here accompanied with General Kosta Nadj, commander of the 5th Military District.

Main JNA component, the infantry, received during MDAP mostly fire-support weaponry: over 5.000 Bazookas 60 and 88,9mm, 1.120 recoilless guns 57 and 75mm, 2.500 Browning M2 cal 12,7mm anti-aircraft machine-guns and 34.000 M1 Thompson cal 11,43 mm sub-machine-guns. Yugoslav amoured units received two types of tanks M-4 Sherman (599), M-47 Patton (319). Three types of self-propelled guns: M-7 Priest, M-18 Hellcat, M-36 Jackson (715), a total of 565 armoured cars M3A1 Scoutcar and M-8 Greyhound. Immediately since the MAP was signed, a huge quantities of artillery started reached Yugoslavia. Total of 760 weapons in the 105,155 and 203mm calibre were delivered. Yugoslav Army engineers received 44 different items that covered  the 119 different types of equipment: bridges, bulldozers, greyders, rollers, boats, workshops...

JNA received over tens of thousands of different vehicles. Many of it were specialised and had entered nearly all of the units. Of note is their service with the Yugoslav Odred as part the United Nations Emergency Force. This 800-men force was deployed to Sinai Peninsula in November 1956 equipped with MDAP supplied US types of vehicles. They included the standard range of Jeeps, different Dodges to a fleet of GMC lorries. The Odred had a number of specialised vehicles such as fuel-tankers, dumpers, workshops, a recovery vehicle, crane, bulldozer and different trailers. including armoured reconnaissance vehicles. The most potent weapon of the Odred were M-8 Greyhound armoured cars, and standard patrol M3A1 White armoured cars.

Most of the vehicles and equipment were presented on the May Day parades that were held in capital of Yugoslavia, Belgrade and six capitals of socialist republics on annual basis. The American weaponry attracted the attention of the wider public.

Incorporation into the MDAP influenced that parts of the JNA officers corps passed special conversion and training programs. Those courses were held in two ways: by sending Yugoslav officers to various centres or units in the United States or in Europe or at specially created courses in Yugoslavia, where American military or civil lecturers conducted conversion. In the period of the MDAP total number of 762 JNA personnel was trained out of Yugoslavia. Yugoslav airmen were the first who went to United States for training at Godman and Shaw air bases. Three experienced pilots were send to the jet aviation Squadron Leader Course with the 48th Fighter- Bomber Wing USAFE at Chaumont, France, in September 1952. Ten more pilots were added in December of the same year, to be converted to a jet pilot status. Those pilots were engaged to become first jet aviation instructors in the spring 1953, for the Yugoslav Air Force.

First Lockheed T-33As for Yugoslav Air Force reached Batajnica air base on the 10 March 1953. Five T-33A T-birds landed in Batajnica crowded with top brass of both Yugoslav and US armies. First batch of combat F-84G Thunderjets was delivered to Yugoslavia on Wednesday, 9 June 1953. Further deliveries continued in smaller or larger batches until the end of the Progamme. Major Michael Smolen famous instructor and pilot of “Acro-jets” acrobatic team of USAF Fighter School 1948-1951 took part in this phase of conversion, flying on T-33А. In 1954-1955, Yugoslav Air Force received first surveillance AN/TPS radars as well as first S-51 helicopters and fleet of 20 Douglas C-47 airplanes which became backbone of the transport fleet for over two decades.

In the following period of the MDAP (1955-1958), YAF was strengthened with, at that time, two most modern types: 22 reconnaissance Lockheed RT-33As and 43 North American F-86E Sabre interceptors. The RT-33A was the first originaly produced reconnaissance airplane in the YAF inventory, while the Sabrejet was able to encounter the Mig-15 which was in inventory of the neighbouring satellite air forces. One notable event occurred soon after the arrival of the initial batches of Sabres: for the first time Yugoslav pilots had the opportunity of the breaking the sound barrier. All of the pilots which flew faster of the speed of sound had received letter from the Canadair Company and certificate that they belonged to the “Mach Busters Club.”

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