SPECIAL TREATMENT :
|By Milan Jovanović, FSD predsident
By the election day‘s end on April 4th, 2022, in spite of the inexplicable tardiness of the Election Commission, it was already known who will be the winners in Serbia‘s 2022 elections for president, parliament, and in Belgrade!
But before those names were known, one victor was already apparent before the results were even in: The Russian narrative has triumphed in Serbia and which has directly, or just short of directly, predetermined and influenced the course of this year‘s election campaign and it‘s results.
The rise of Russian influence in Serbia was often and correctly considered malignant and harmful – when it is considered in the context of Serbia‘s self-proclaimed aspirations to one day be a part of the European Union and be founded upon western notions of democracy. Its rise in Serbia has been happening for a long time, it began just after the signing of the so-called Brussels Agreement which was made in an attempt to untie the Kosovo knot that burdens Europe and the Balkans.
That influence will afterward become a continual counterpoint to the first convincing parliamentarian victory by Aleksandar Vucic and his SNS party, only to later, after the now long forgotten so-called internal dialogue about Kosovo, become overly aggressive to the point that the dialogue was abandoned in haste.
During that time the rise of Russian influence was happening without any appropriate internal analysis (the events that were taking place within civil society organizations at the time notwithstanding), or any ambitions on the government‘s part to oppose it. Quite the opposite.
It is plain now, and it will become even more so in the times ahead, that Serbia‘s acquiescence to this rising Russian influence was a strategic mistake (from the perspective of its Euro-Atlantic aspirations).
Whether that mistake was (un)intentional or not is irrelevant when discussing the consequences it‘s rise has brought about.
Russia‘s aggression on Ukraine in 2022 failed to hinder Russia‘s influence and the Kremlin‘s ideological penetration into Serbia‘s political discourse and election campaign in 2022. It did not lead to a consolidation in defense of the western concept of democratic values as it did in the European Union and the West at large, including the resolution which condemned Russian aggression which was passed by an overwhelming majority in the UN. On the contrary!
Even though Serbia signed on to that vote of the world in the UN it could be said that the effects of Russia‘s aggression in Ukraine were starkly different in Serbia.
This could be observed through a gallery of front pages of Serbia‘s chief media outlets and television shows with national frequencies. The election results on April 3rd were but a continuation of the conveyance of Russian influence into Serbia, which will become even greater if the Kremlin‘s aggression on Ukraine is pacified in due time.
Opposition and blistering, quarrelsome rhetoric of Serbian resistance to signing on to sanctions on Russia imposed by the EU, with which Serbia is still formally in a continuous ascension process, is just the tip of the iceberg of Russian political accomplishments in the field of the so-called Serbian world! The Nay vote on the sanctions themselves is less significant than the chief Russian goal that has already been achieved – the imposing upon Serbia and its political and social structures of those Russian methods which, in those countries adjacent to it and under its political sway, opposed universal western values and ideals of democratic governance.
The Russian web of values in which Serbia is tangled in was woven for a long time through the media with the goal of diminishing pro-Western sentiments in target(ed) countries;
slandering the EU and undermining support for EU membership, in member states as well as states applying for membership;
restoration of Russian influence in post-Soviet space;
undermining of internal cohesion and sovereignty and even territorial integrity in a way that furthers Kremlin interests;
and last but not least, the abuse of religious institutions, the Orthodox church i particular, in a similar way it is being abused in Russia itself.
The continuation of Serbia‘s road towards EU membership in the first addresses of Serbian politicians after the „announcement“ of election results was mentioned incidentally, in the tone normally reserved for further modernization and economic prosperity for the country which were, however, up to these elections, mainly helped along by the European Union and the West.
The day after the elections things in Serbia are already clear:
At the start of a long-term war in defense of the values, the EU is founded upon, which, as we are hearing in the West and around the world after the aggression on Ukraine, is nigh and it looks like it will be a long one, Serbia as a society and a country is entering at a serious loss, with a substantial value insufficiency and political and moral deficit, which are a result the strategy to not oppose or try to evade malign Russian influence and hindering of Serbia‘s Euro-Atlantic integrations without any attempts to politically tackle it.
The experiences with the fate of the internal dialogue about Kosovo, call for analogies, that it will give up on both the EU and its values if it is necessary. All the while it will cite election results that haven‘t been even officially announced yet.