BELGRADE – When Serbian leadership claims that it wants to remain “neutral” and to cooperate with both NATO and Russia, this is a half-truth, since the Alliance has already entered Serbia, Serbian expert in geopolitics Dragana Trifkovic told Sputnik.
In an exclusive interview with Sputnik, Dragana Trifkovic, Serbian expert in geopolitics and the Director General of the Center for Geostrategic Studies in Belgrade, shared her views regarding the ratification of a logistical support agreement between Serbia and NATO in February 2016.
“The agreement between the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the NATO Support and Procurement Organization (NSPO) on cooperation in the field of logistical support, provides the basis for an even closer cooperation between Serbia and NATO. It regulates the relationship between our country and NATO, which was established by an Individual Partnership Action Plan, which represents the highest level of cooperation of a country that is not a member of this organization,” she explained.
The Serbian expert called attention to the fact that in accordance with the agreement, NATO member states have been granted freedom of movement in Serbia, access to all public and private facilities, and usage of Serbia’s garrisons and infrastructures.
Furthermore, NATO members are exempt from all taxes and any kind of liability, i.e. they have diplomatic immunity.
“Now the main issue is not whether Serbia will join the NATO, since NATO has already entered Serbia,” she pointed out.
“I have to mention that this form of cooperation is far worse for Serbia than its NATO membership because Serbia is now de facto at NATO’s disposal; on the other hand NATO has absolutely no obligations towards Serbia, unlike the commitments that exist towards the member States. Serbia’s membership in NATO is certainly not a topic that is acceptable, but it is important to point out that because of this form of cooperation, as it is now established, we are now in the worst possible position,” Trifkovic told Sputnik.
There is something sinister about the fact that the agreement was championed by NATO amid its military buildup in Europe aimed against a non-existent “Russian threat.”
The Serbian expert underscored that NATO “constantly frightens Europe with the ‘expansion of the Russian influence’ and the ‘Russian aggression.'”
However, when you look at the map it becomes clear that it is the NATO bloc that has been expanding to the East in an aggressive manner since the collapse of the USSR.
According to Trifkovic, NATO is merely a tool of Washington’s political establishment that does whatever it takes to solidify the American presence in Europe at the same time ruining all efforts aimed at linking Eurasia’s countries together.
“NATO started its military campaign towards East from the moment when the USSR collapsed, and the war in Yugoslavia was the beginning of the encirclement of Russia,” Trifkovic underscored.
“There is no doubt that NATO strengthens its presence in Europe with the aim of confronting Russia. Through NATO and the European Command of the Armed Forces, America organized the intense military exercises in Europe, mostly in Hoenfelsu, the former Nazi military base,” she continued, adding that although the drills are dubbed “shared commitment” and “collective defense” it remains unclear from whom exactly they are supposed to defend the bloc.
While some Serbian organizations are now demanding to hold a referendum on the country’s membership in NATO, the point is the people of Serbia need a referendum on the state’s cooperation with NATO in first place, the expert elaborated.
“Serbia should suspend all cooperation with this organization and the people must have the democratic right to express their opinion at the referendum. Instead, the government deceives the people saying that we are military ‘neutral’ even though we have a foreign army and foreign military bases on our territory (Camp Bondsteel). It has nothing to do with ‘neutrality’ but with the occupation,” she stressed.
Indeed, according to Trifkovic, over 80% of Serbian citizens are opposed to any cooperation with NATO, especially in the light of the Alliance’s illegitimate and disastrous air strikes on civilian and military targets in the country back in 1999.
Thus, unsurprisingly, the ratification of the Serbian-NATO agreement prompted a wave of social protests in the country.
“All patriotic parties and movements participated in the anti-NATO demonstrations in Belgrade [On February 20]. They were officially organized by the movement called Zavetnici and other smaller movements, but the gathering was also supported by the Democratic Party of Serbia and the Serbian Dveri movement. All the media in Serbia ignored this gathering of people on the streets of Belgrade,” Dragana Trifkovic told Sputnik.
On March 4 another peaceful demonstration against Serbian-NATO rapprochement took place in Nis, Serbia.
“As I have already stated, it is essential that the government of Serbia organizes a referendum on cooperation with NATO, but not membership. If we consider that according to all opinion polls, over 80% of Serbs do not want any cooperation with NATO, the question is: in whose name then the Serbian government implements policies of firmest possible cooperation with NATO?” Trifkovic asked.
Furthermore, all previously signed agreements with NATO, including the Partnership for Peace program, should be put to a referendum, the Serbian expert emphasized.
And the referendum question should be: Do you agree with Serbia’s cooperation with NATO?
According to the Serbian expert “it is undemocratic that the Government of Montenegro without the consent of the nation introduced the country into NATO, although the citizens of Montenegro oppose such a decision.”
“[Prime Minister of Montenegro] Milo Djukanovic is trying to buy himself a couple of years in power, and is ready to inflict great damage to the country just to achieve such a goal,” Dragana Trifkovic remarked.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic argues that “Serbia… wishes to cooperate with both the Russian Federation and NATO.” Is such a compromise possible?
Hardly, Trifkovic believes.
The crux of the matter is that the Vucic government does not cooperate equally with Brussels, Washington and Moscow, although he tries to present to the people in Serbia that this is so, she stressed.
“If we mention the military cooperation, the ratio between the exercises that Serbia held with NATO and Russia is 100:2 annually. Vucic’s government is committed to a strategic cooperation with NATO, while cooperation with Russia is for marketing purposes, pacifying public opinion in Serbia,” Trifkovic noted.
That is why the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Serbia and the US was signed in secret in 2006, the Serbian expert revealed, adding that the country’s media sources (predominantly controlled by the West) “are full of articles about Serbian-Russian relations, which creates a false picture of the events.”
“I think that it’s impossible to simultaneously cooperate with NATO and Russia because NATO at all times creates an anti-Russian front, it affects the conflicts on Russia’s borders, while at the same time warning about ‘Russian aggression.’ Serbia and Russia have always been on the same side throughout history, and now we are in a situation where a puppet government takes us to the other side. The majority of public opinion in Serbia is not conscious of this fact, because of the media and other types of manipulation,” Trifkovic told Sputnik.
But what is the way out? Is it possible that NATO’s “sprawl” will lead to a “Serbian Spring,” as independent journalist Nebojsa Malic also known as “Grey Falcon” wrote in his recent Op-Ed for RT?
“I do not support revolutions, it turned out each time that they bring bad things. Another problem is that a ‘spring’ revolution can easily evolve into an armed conflict like in Syria, for example,” Dragana Trifkovic answered.
“I would prefer that cooperation with NATO is stopped by a judicious government that will respect the will of the majority of its people and will protect the national and state interests of Serbia and not the interests of Washington and Brussels. A government that will reasonably understand that it is not in Serbia’s interests to cooperate with the aggressor, the NATO organization, that inflicted upon us $100 billion in material damages and bombed us with depleted uranium,” the Serbian expert underscored.