The UN General Assembly on Thursday took a major move to suspend the membership of Russia from the UN Human Rights Council. Serbia, which was among the 93 countries which voted in favor of the resolution, stated that it voted under the “threat of facing sanctions and increasing pressures.”
“People asked why we didn’t vote against or didn’t abstain from voting. However, if we abstained, other countries will go against us and the pressure will increase,” Serbian President Alexander Vucic told Radio Television of Serbia, a public broadcaster of the country.
Since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Serbia has been subjected to great pressure from the West, which is trying to force Serbia to join in condemning and even sanctioning Russia. Vucic previously said the days after the outbreak of the conflict had been the most difficult in his professional career.
Pressure from the West on Serbia mainly comes from the following aspects. First, seeking EU membership remains an important diplomatic option for Serbia but whether the goal can be achieved is up to the EU. In recent years, the process of joining the EU by Serbia and other Western Balkan countries has stalled and the prospect for accession by 2025 has become very distant. Considering the economic significance of the EU to Serbia and the country’s strong domestic willingness to join the bloc, the EU will naturally take advantage of the membership issue to put pressure on Serbia. The EU has repeatedly urged Serbia and other Central and Eastern European countries to take a consistent stance over the Ukraine crisis. In extreme cases, the EU is even likely to reduce financial support for Serbia.
The second is the Kosovo issue. Against the backdrop that anti-Russia stance has become political correctness in the West, Kosovo is also aware of the adverse impact that the close relationship between Russia and Serbia may have on Serbia and the opportunity that it can use to seek an independent status. Recently, Kosovo has actively called on all parties in the EU to acknowledge its dependence and support its accession to NATO. In the past, Serbia could rely on Russia’s influence to deter Kosovo and the EU also demanded to resolve the Kosovo issue through dialogue and other peaceful means. But now, Russia is busy enough with its own affairs and the US and other Western countries in Europe are likely to use the Kosovo issue to pressure Serbia. If Serbia does not take a consistent stand with them, they may leverage the Kosovo issue.
Obviously, the national interests and history of Serbia, or any other country outside the Western camp, are not in the mind of this camp. Western countries turn a blind eye to the kinship of Russians and Serbians, both of whom belong to the Slav ethnic group. Imperial Russia participated in wars several times on the land of Serbia as a “protector.” It is based on these ties that Russia and Serbia extended and developed their relations.
Conflicts occurred between Western countries and Serbia over a number of issues such as the Yugoslav Wars and the Kosovo War. The 78-day bombing campaign led by the US and NATO has become the indelible scars left on the Serbian public. The catastrophic memory of this blood debt makes the Serbian people hold a negative view toward their country’s joining of NATO and they are more prone to developing cooperative ties with Russia. On March 24, the 23rd anniversary of NATO’s bombing, the Serbian public commemorated the victims during the aggression.
Western countries are exploiting the ongoing Ukraine crisis to gain geopolitical benefits. They hijack certain countries with politics and ideology and turn anti-Russia stance into something politically correct, so as to maintain their hegemonic status in the international community. They ruthlessly tear off the interests of other countries to subsidize their own in a coercive manner. The US-led West hysterically points their fingers at countries they view as adversaries and accuse them of “coercive diplomacy,” but it turns out that coercive diplomacy is the exclusive right of the West. Isn’t it ironic that the West waves its human rights stick while talking about human rights?
Vucic may have been bold enough to speak out the threat and pressure his country faces from the West, but how many more of the 93 countries that voted in favor did so under Western coercion and how many dare not to speak out?
Mr. Ju Hao is a distinguished associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
This article was previously published here.