The Irish Times reported in an article that the front runner in Serbian’s January elections — ultra-conservative Tomislav Nikolic — has urged Russia to establish a military base in Serbia to counteract the presence of the United States, the European Union, and NATO. In light of Russia’s actions in the last few years, this request by Nikolic is not only not far-fetched, but something already considered by Russia, particularly given NATO’s proposed missle shields that, according to it, are meant to protect states from Iranian attacks (apparently, that includes both real and imagined attacks).
Of course, the dismal record of the United States foreign policy in the last few years certainly has given Russia a reason to distrust not only a military presence in Kosovo (i.e., Camp Bondsteel), but also a missle shield plan in Poland that ostensibly protects states from Iran (the fact that Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried insists that the “real concern is not Russia” in connection with the missle defense shield plan reveals that the real concern is in fact Russia).
The question, though, is what effect a Russian military base in Serbia will have for the issue of stabilization in the Balkans? Or, more precisely, what will the perception of a Russian military base have for stabilization in the Balkans?
As always, that depends. Will a Russian military base be seen as a “provocation” by the West, or will a Russian military base actually provide more stability — as opposed to less — in the region. Again, I think that depends, but the answer is not so clear cut, particularly when you see a certain bias in most western media that portrays any excercise of Russian power as something supremely negative and doomsdayish (see, for example, CNN’s “Czar Putin” for just a small chunk of that bias I am talking about).
Ultra-nationalist Serb Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the country’s most popular party and a frontrunner in presidential elections due in January, has urged Russia to establish a military base in Serbia to counteract the presence of US and Nato forces in Kosovo. Mr Nikolic’s Radical Party won this year’s general election but was kept out of power by a loose alliance of more liberal parties, which is now fraying under the strain of Kosovo‘s imminent declaration of independence.
“It is obvious that there will be a unilateral proclamation of independence, and that the United States will immediately recognise it,” said Mr Nikolic. “We must react with measures that are currently available to us, and those include complete isolation of Kosovo by Serbia, including the stoppage of trade and the movement of people and the adoption of measures to protect non-Albanians.”
Amid fears of renewed clashes between Kosovo‘s 1.9 million Albanians and 120,000 Serbs and Roma, and the potential exodus of minorities from the province when it declares independence next year, Nato has pledged to maintain a presence of some 17,000 troops. Mr Nikolic said Belgrade would not deploy soldiers to oppose Nato, but would seek to “help in the preservation of peace and security” if Kosovo‘s Serbs were threatened.
However, he insisted that the presence of a Nato force and the large US military Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo should be counterbalanced by a new Russian base in Serbia. “If we already have an American base, why can’t we have a Russian base in Serbia?” he asked.
“They would be watching each other and taking care of each other, and Serbia would be perfectly safe.” Moscow has pledged to block any United Nations resolution on Kosovo that is not acceptable to Belgrade, which in turn has vowed never to accept the region’s independence.
Mr Nikolic, prime minister Vojislav Kostunica and other senior Belgrade officials have played up Serbia‘s traditional alliance with Russia and suggested that EU and US backing for Kosovo‘s independence was driving it away from the West and towards Moscow, which already has major financial interests in the country.
“Our road toward the European Union has to be careful, while our road toward Russia is open,” said Mr Nikolic. “Our people would punish us if we co-operate with those who don’t respect us as a state and a nation – with those who occupy Kosovo.” (Source: Irish Times)