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Effects of the Russian-Ukrainian War on Serbia

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Since February 2022, the effects of the Russian-Ukrainian War not only extended to Eastern Europe, Transnistria, the North Caucasus and the Black Sea, but also deeply affected the Balkans in particular. One of the most frequently discussed issues over the past year has been Russia’s strengthening ties with its allies in the Balkans and its regional implications. In this regard, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani accuses Serbia of “replicating Russia’s moves in Ukraine and Georgia” in the case of Kosovo . According to President Osmani, Russia’s aggressive actions are not limited to Ukraine, but are also spreading to the Balkan region. [1]

After Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the Balkan countries have also been threatened. Russia’s support to Serbia in Kosovo has made the people of Kosovo uneasy. Because if Russian influence increases, Serbia will receive more support from the Russians. Growing concerns about such a security crisis are also escalating tensions between the two countries. In fact, Kosovars and Serbs had recently reached a partial reconciliation between themselves. However, this has now changed and the possibility of conflict is once again on the agenda. If the problem of Kosovo’s recognition is resolved on the basis of international law and with the consensus of states, it could have positive consequences for the current crisis in the region. However, with Russia’s Ukraine Crisis, the Kosovo Question seems to have disappeared from the agenda of European countries.

Serbia’s pressure on Kosovo is likely to increase. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Serbia has adopted an abstentionist attitude towards Russia. This is because Serbia is also trying to achieve European integration. Moreover, if Serbia intervenes in Kosovo, it may find the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) against it. If the investments against Russia were to be applied to Serbia, the country would soon be on the brink of a crisis.

Even before the war in Ukraine began, Serbia had strained foreign policy relations with Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo. The only neighbor with which the country has developed good relations is North Macedonia. The war in Ukraine has also deepened the crisis in the context of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Milorad Dodik, the Serbian member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been increasingly aggressive in his rhetoric and plans to withdraw from the Bosnian government. Dodik’s rhetoric and the support he receives from foreign powers are increasing day by day. It is essential to raise these issues more frequently in the international arena. If these tensions escalate further, there is a risk of a return to the conflicts of the 1990s.

Living in an era of globalization of crises, it cannot be assumed that the war in Ukraine will be limited to a regional conflict. The so-called annexation of Ukraine’s four separatist regions to Russia through a plebiscite is also inspiring separatist sentiments in the Balkans. The calls for independence by Milorad Dodik, who spoke at the anniversary of the founding of the Republika Srpska, are noteworthy. [2] . Dodik made the following statements: [3]

“Every national movement, and we too, have only one goal, and that is to create a people’s state, a state of its own. Therefore, the doubt whether this is possible or not should never affect the minds. For us Serbs and other people living in Republika Srpska, it is indeed possible.”

Based on this, it can be said that separatist ideas in the Balkans have gained strength in the last year. However, it is clear that Russia is increasing its engagement in the Balkans.[4] In recent assessments by the European Union, Bosnia and Herzegovina is characterized as one of the two hotspots of conflict along with Ukraine. [5] EU countries believe that nationalist and separatist rhetoric is on the rise in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that these developments jeopardize the stability and even the integrity of the country. . These views may indeed reflect the truth. Indeed, the Serbs in the Balkans receive clear support from Russia. In particular, Russia has staunchly supported Serbia in Kosovo and has provided support to Serbian leader Milorad Dodik in Bosnia.

In conclusion, given the repercussions of the Ukraine Crisis on Russian support in the Balkans, it can be inferred that Serbian nationalism has been affected. In an environment where Russia is only condemned, Dodik may further escalate his separatist rhetoric. Dodik and his supporters probably see the possibility of a NATO intervention in Bosnia as unlikely as in the past. After all, Western influence in the Balkans is allegedly weakening. In such an environment, space has opened up for Russia. Russia’s assertion of power in Ukraine could lead to an increased threat from Serbian separatists.


[1] “Osmani: Srbija na Kosovu cilja ono što Rusija cilja u Ukrajini”, RTV, https://rtv.rs/sr_lat/politika/osmani-srbija-na-kosovu-cilja-ono-sto-rusija-cilja-u-ukrajini_1317493.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 26.09.2023).

[2] “Republika Srpska 30th Anniversary Is Marked Amid A Serious Political Crisis”, Euronews, https://www.euronews.com/2022/01/09/republika-srpska-30th-anniversary-is-marked-amid-a-serious-political-crisis, (Erişim Tarihi: 26.09.2023).

[3] Aynı yer.

[4] “BALKAN BLOG: Russia’s Western Rivals Step Up Their Engagement in The Balkans”, Intellinews, https://www.intellinews.com/balkan-blog-russia-s-western-rivals-step-up-their-engagement-in-the-balkans-235787/?source=blogs, (Erişim Tarihi: 26.09.2023).

[5] Aynı yer.

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer graduated from Sakarya University, Department of International Relations in 2014. In the same year, he started his master's degree at Gazi University, Department of Middle Eastern and African Studies. In 2016, Tamer completed his master's degree with his thesis titled "Iran's Iraq Policy after 1990", started working as a Research Assistant at ANKASAM in 2017 and was accepted to Gazi University International Relations PhD Program in the same year. Tamer, whose areas of specialization are Iran, Sects, Sufism, Mahdism, Identity Politics and Asia-Pacific and who speaks English fluently, completed his PhD education at Gazi University in 2022 with his thesis titled "Identity Construction Process and Mahdism in the Islamic Republic of Iran within the Framework of Social Constructionism Theory and Securitization Approach". He is currently working as an Asia-Pacific Specialist at ANKASAM.