Serbia and Hybrid Threats

In early 2018, the US Congress presented a comprehensive study called ''The influence of Putin's asymmetric attacks on democracy in Russia and Europe on the security situation in the US'', in which several pages were dedicated to the influence of Russian propaganda on public opinion in Serbia. The question of whether Serbia has a plan to oppose such propaganda remains unanswered as both pro-European politicians and the official authorities remain silent – writes MILAN JOVANOVIĆ, president of FSD, for the Western Balkan portal ANTIDOT 04.30.2018. in a larger article titled “Mapping of Hybrid warfare and the Western Balkans”.  


Milan Jovanovic 

In early 2018, the US Congress presented a comprehensive study called ''The influence of Putin's asymmetric attacks on democracy in Russia and Europe on the security situation in the US''. In this comprehensive document, which was forwarded to the Foreign policy committee of the US Congress, a few pages were devoted to damaging Russian influence in the Republic of Serbia ''. The article particularly emphasized the influence of Russian propaganda on public opinion in Serbia. 
The public in Serbia is familiar with the contents of this analysis in more or less detail, but what it is not familiar with is the unequivocal assessment that Serbian authorities have done very little to counter this influence.

The same applies to the fact that the progress of EU integrations and the opening of new chapters in the accession negotiations strengthen the pressures against Serbian membership to EU. In this context, it is once more explicitly repeated that Serbian authorities are doing very little to counter Russian and anti-EU propaganda. 
The debate on these opposing statements is completely absent in Serbian public. 
On the contrary, the mentioned propaganda described in previous passages is becoming stronger, with a number of mentioned examples, while in the meantime, the anti-EU discourse has gained such momentum that it sometimes seems like EU narrative is completely overpowered in favor of the anti-EU one – especially in the context of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

To the question whether there is a plan to suppress this anti-Western propaganda there is no specific answer so far, neither from the pro-European politicians or from the official government. Nor are there any specific debates on the ways Serbia will deal with the threats of hybrid war that is being prepared with the aim to jeopardize Serbian membership in EU.

At the beginning of this article we outlined the preconditions for the preparation of hybrid war. In this sense, a theoretical answer that good management of the country is the best response to these sorts of threats sounds ironic, since defense from these threats lies precisely in the good management of public administration, absence of corruption, strong rule of law and respect for human, ethnic, religious and minority rights etc. including the freedom of media of course. However, with this notion, freedom of media in Serbia precisely puts a great risk on the open channels for hybrid threats influence in the target country. What are the ways that a country can use in order to defend itself from hybrid war threats? First and foremost in the decisive attitude of the government to publicly acknowledge them and publicly fight them, like Montenegro did, or even Macedonia.

Scholars and analysts especially stress the need for keeping the balance between fundamental democratic freedoms and application of security measures, and most of all the importance of timely response to slander campaigns of the hybrid aggressor and use of available legal tools. 
To Serbia, as a central security actor in the region, this process is of vital importance if it wishes to stay devoted to EU integrations.


*  author is FSD president and CEO and Head Coordinator od The Western Balkan Media Network ANTIDOT
** title here FSD