Today, seven years ago, the forces of NATO bombed Serbia and Montenegro. The war lasted 78 days. The balance of the war is couple of thousand death and billions of dollars of destroyed property.
Russian federation gave lip service to the defiant attitude of Slobodan Milosevic towards the rest of the international community but never managed (or wanted) to offer his regime full support he wanted. June 1999 show-seizure of the Pristina airport by the Russian troops from Bosnia ended in pitiful retreat and acceptance of the minor role to play in the post-war international governance in Kosovo. Many Serbs who greeted Russian as protectors and saviours had to leave the province because of the impossible security situation in which they were left to live. Once again Russia demonstrated that its actions in the Balkans or, respecting the geopolitical reality go completely along the policy of the US and NATO, or consist in show-actions feeding the dream of cold war grandeur aimed at its own anti-Western public opinion.
Despite occasional protests against the independence of Kosovo (that simply have the effect of feeding irrational expectations of parts of the Serbian public) it now seems clear that Russia will not vote against granting Kosovo some form of independence in the UN Security Council. Due to its lack of substantial power, but even more importantly due to its lack of political influence among the democratic political elites in this part of Europe, Russia is forced to retreat. Economically Russia can play a positive role, however, even this is under a question mark due to its extremely bad ties to the current Serbian political elite. Politically, however, Russia has to realize that, it is no longer the ‘protector’ of the Slavic Orthodox Populations living under the Ottoman Empire (if it ever was), Russia has definitely lost the power and leverage it had in the past. Instead of playing a politically constructive role, it decides to remain present and play the role of a spoiler. After all Russia is still a nuclear power. Recent tacit support to the efforts to create the theory of conspiracy around Milosevic’s death, and a rather distasteful meddling in the internal political affairs of Serbia (Russian army generals parading in uniforms in a foreing country on a unofficial visit, actually during the opposition rally-funeral and the fact of providing a diplomatic vehicle for Milosevic’s son) are an illustrative example of this. Moreover, Milosevic’s family (wife) is hiding from justice in Russia, as well as at least one person indicted in the ICTY, and Russia does nothing to acknowledge this.
The sad truth is that, besides geopolitical impotence, Russia lost all power of cultural expansion. Russia has almost no substantial political influence over the current Serbian democratic elite. More increasingly Russia emerges as a protector of dictatorial and corrupt regimes. It is enough to look at the support given to Lukashenka’s electoral fraud and to Milosevic’s allies in Serbia. A famous Serbian writer and politician, now a Minister of foreign affaris, describes in one of his books the following situation: During the Second World War, in 1942, Serbs fighting against the German and Croatian Nazis in Bosnia eash night burned tires on a large mountainous field. The purpose of this was to signal the Russian Red Army paratroopers where to land. This was done despite the fact that there was no such intention on the part of the Soviets. Blind faith in 'mother Russia'. The sad truth for the Russian foreign policy is that there are less and less Serbs who feel this way, between the two cultures there is an ocean of ignorance. Russia definetely lost an ally while Serbia luckily becomes more mature when foreign policy making is concerned.