In recent times, tension in the Balkans has been shaped through Kosovo-Serbia relations. In particular, the tensions in northern Kosovo have deepened disputes between the parties and caused the West to harden its stance towards both actors. Considering Serbia’s relations with Russia, Belgrade’s Western policy is noteworthy. At the NATO Vilnius Summit, in addition to focusing on Ukraine, it was highlighted that its relations with Serbia would affect overall regional security.
To elaborate, the Belgrade administration is far from stable in its relations with Pristina. Recent crises are considered threats due to their potential to lead to conflict. Especially when looking at the geopolitical equation, this threat is of great importance as it directly affects Europe. Therefore, Europe and its most important partner, the United States (US), are closely interested in the matter. Rather than the West’s attitude towards Pristina; its stance towards Belgrade is relatively more prominent. Because Serbia is a potential partner for Russia.
In the end, Serbia’s good relations with its neighbors make it easier to follow a common security policy against Russia throughout the region. However, there are many obstacles in establishing these relationships. Especially in recent times, the US’s repressive attitude pushes Serbia towards Russia and China. Indeed, the inclusion of Aleksandar Vulin, head of the Serbian Security and Information Agency, on the sanctions list by Washington, proves this pressure. Therefore, it is possible to claim that Belgrade will be cautious about following a common policy with the West.
It should be noted that; The West aims to show its support for Ukraine within NATO with a unified stance. To ensure this unity, Europe must first end its security concerns within its own borders. The actor that stands out at this point is Serbia. Therefore, it is likely that diplomatic contacts will intensify in NATO-Belgrade relations in the coming period. These contacts could primarily take shape through Moscow-Belgrade and Pristina-Belgrade relations. Especially because Serbia’s relationship with Kosovo is at a deadlock, this issue is seen as a problem that needs to be solved for the West.
In short, the instability between Kosovo and Serbia affects the entire region. NATO invites the parties to reduce tension and return to dialogue. However, without putting in extra effort, it is very difficult to achieve this with only rhetoric.
As can be understood, the focus of Serbia’s recent foreign policy is security. Belgrade, which wants to escape political isolation, is trying to carefully maintain its multidirectional balance policy and find new allies for itself. This makes Beijing and Moscow attractive for the Belgrade administration. Especially, Serbian President Alexander Vucic, who is in a difficult situation with Western sanctions on the issue of Kosovo, has intensified his contacts in his relations with Russia and stated that the tension in the region has increased due to the attitude of Pristina in a meeting with Russian Ambassador Aleksandar Bochan-Karchenko.
As can be seen, Belgrade’s interest in elements outside the West is increasing. However, turning its back on the West in one stroke is difficult for both security and economic reasons. Because Serbia is a part of the West and is aware of the benefits of Europe. Therefore, while trying to reduce the sanctions to be applied by the West, it is maintaining its contacts with actors like Russia and China on the one hand; on the other hand, it is trying to improve its relations with the West.
In fact, it can be argued that Vucic wants to implement a multidirectional balance policy to overcome the critical situation he is in. Another point to focus on is Vucic’s initiatives for cooperation in the region. Belgrade, wanting to gain maneuvering space for itself, is trying to prove that it is a potential partner rather than a threat for Europe by demonstrating its importance for the region on the one hand, and on the other hand. The memorandum of understanding signed with Austria and Hungary shows this effort. Vucic’s emphasis on the interests of Europe should not be overlooked here.
In conclusion, the most important issue in NATO’s policies is the issue of Ukraine. However, in order to display a unified stance against Russia, the West first needs to address the security concerns within its own borders. At this point, the problems between Serbia and Kosovo stand out. Because a conflict between the two actors would affect the entire region. Therefore, the West’s pressure to end the crises on the Belgrade-Pristina line and reopen the path of dialogue is increasing. Especially considering Serbia’s relations with Russia, Vucic’s stance is significant. But as the West hardens its stance towards Belgrade, Vucic is turning to alternatives like Russia and China. Nevertheless, it is not expected that Serbia will completely turn its back on the West.
 “Aleksandar Vulin, važna ličnost u Vladi Srbije, stavljen na listu sankcija SAD-a”, Al Jazeera, https://balkans.aljazeera.net/videos/2023/7/11/aleksandar-vulin-vazna-licnost-u-vladi-srbije-stavljen-na-listu-sankcija-sad-a, (Date of Accession: 11.07.2023).
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