Russia's Serbia Strategy - February, 2008

No sane person would wish for a war. However, there are many immensely powerful demons in Western governments today that are surly and steadily steering the world towards a major global confrontation. Needless to say, they are more-or-less doing this because of their dwindling natural resources, their stressed economies and their primal fear of the Eastern nations, specifically of Russians. As a result, certain nations will have to fight and spill blood to survive this inevitability. I personally believe that the Russian Federation is the only power on earth today that can stop these demons from realizing their agenda of enslavement, exploitation and globalization. I don't wish war upon Russia, it has seen too much war in its history. However, the sad reality is that Russians will sooner-or-later face another war in defense of their nation. Looking at Russian history, it seems that periodic chaos in defense of their Motherland is their national curse. Thus, it's just a matter of time. Nevertheless, I hope they, as a people, realize this harsh reality. I hope they are found yet again unprepared when the time comes. I'm looking forward to the full awakening of the Russian Bear.



Russia's Serbia Strategy

February, 2008

YESTERDAY EVENING, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica boasted to a crowd opposed to Kosovar independence that, "We're not alone in our fight. President Putin is with us." Briefly euphoric after breaking free, Kosovars now face a grim challenge: they must build a prosperous nation in the face of strident opposition from Moscow. Meanwhile, Serbian protestors broke into the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade yesterday; much of the American complex now lies charred. Russia's Security Council veto, which ensures Kosovo will not join the UN, hinders the international response to such incidents and impedes foreign assistance that might stabilize the fledgling democracy. Indeed, upon Kosovo's independence, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the event "threatens the destruction of the world order that has developed over centuries."

Why should Russia go to the trouble of standing up for Serbia? Much has been made of the long historical affinity between the two. Serbia once stood as the bulwark of Eastern Orthodoxy, which had its greatest champion in the 'Third Rome' of Russia after the fall of Constantinople. The Catholic Hapsburg Empire lay just to the west, often as close as Croatia, and the Muslim Ottoman Empire occupied Serbia for centuries. Patriarch Alexiy II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, demonstrated the strong religious ties between the two countries when he inserted himself into the debate by saying Kosovo's independence "has unilaterally upset the balance in the world." Yet pretenses of defending international law or analysis pointing to traditional ties hide the real reason for Russia's position: Serbia lets Russia project power and accrue profit in Southeastern Europe. Russian-Serbian trade has spiked, and Russian corporations have begun snatching up Serbian assets at bargain-basement prices. Vladimir Putin has even acknowledged this, calling it "natural that a resurgent Russia is returning [to Serbia]."

Trade between the two topped $2.6 billion in 2007, a 22 percent increase over 2006 and a 56 percent increase from 2005. Much of this exchange has been in energy imports from Russia, the country with which Serbia has its largest trade deficit. When Serbia opened up the bidding for the assets of its national oil conglomeration, Naftna Industrija Srbije, Belgrade's favoritism led to enormous Russian profits. A number of companies--Hungary's MOL, Poland's PKN Orlen, Russia's Lukoil, and Romania's Rompetrol--made offers for the group late last year. Despite a market valuation estimated at between 1 and 2 billion euros ($1.5-3 billion) by most analysts, Russia's Gazprom purchased a 51 percent stake in NIS for just 400 million euros ($589 million) in late January. Gazprom enjoys close ties with the Russian administration: Putin's presumptive heir to the presidency, Dmitry Medvedev, is chairman of the firm's board of directors.

In December, when Russia made an initial bid similar to the final purchase price, Serbia's economic minister, Mladjan Dinkić, said, "This offer is humiliating . . . the property alone is worth 800 million euros ($1.17 billion) according to conservative estimates, excluding business or market share." Analysts inside and outside Serbia believe the prime minister overruled Dinkić and pushed the deal through anyway to reward Russia for its support on Kosovo. Russia, a "first among equals" in economic deals according to Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bo idar Djelić, has extended its influence deep into Serbia's economy. Russia's Aeroflot has expressed interest in purchasing the flagship Serbian airline JAT; it may make an offer as early as late March according to Aeroflot official Mikhail Polyboyarinov. Other assets slated for privatization, such as Srpska Bank, have also come under the watchful eye of Russian financiers.

Most importantly, the NIS deal came bundled with a plan for Russia to construct the intermediate leg of its 550-mile South Stream pipeline project through Serbia. Carrying nearly 2.6 trillion gallons of natural gas a year to Europe from the Black Sea through Bulgaria, South Stream would force Serbia to rely on Russia for fuel supplies. The pipeline would also cement Russia's control over the European market. The EU and the United States, hoping to blunt the Russian monopoly over the European energy market, plan to build a pipeline, known as the Nabucco project, to bring Caspian fuel from Azerbaijan through Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary. South Stream would hobble such aspirations and cut out U.S. allies like Turkey and Romania. Its northern sister, the Nord Stream project, would bring fuel under the Baltic Sea directly to Germany, allowing Russia to cut off supplies to Central European states without interrupting supplies to their more economically and politically powerful counterparts in the West. Together, these projects would give Russia even greater control over the European energy market.

Gazprom attempted to pressure Ukraine by shutting off gas for three days in early 2006; despite assurances from Gazprom, Western customers experienced reduced supply undermining the company's attempt to strong-arm Kiev on behalf of Moscow. The Stream pipeline projects would let Russia play a game of divide-and-conquer, allowing Gazprom to pressure one country at a time if Moscow desired a higher price or wished to exert political pressure. Without Serbian cooperation, Russia would be forced to rely on more pro-Western states such as Romania. And without Serbia, Russia might not be able to head off Nabucco, which represents the greatest Western threat to Russia's energy strategy. Russian opposition to Kosovo's independence ensures that Serbia will continue serving as the lynchpin in Russian plans.

A Europe dominated economically and politically by Russia cannot stand up to Kremlin sponsorship of autocrats in Eastern Europe and Central Asia or Russian foot-dragging on international sanctions against an Iranian arms program. Building a safer, freer world will demand a comprehensive response. New leaders in Europe may make such a stand possible. French President Nicholas Sarkozy said in 2007 that Russia "is, with a certain brutality, imposing its return on the world scene by taking advantage of its assets, notably oil and gas." In January 2006, immediately after her first meeting with Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Russian opposition leaders, urging them to contribute to "reviving life in Russia." British Prime Minister Gordon Brown expelled four Russian diplomats from Britain in July after Russia failed to extradite Andrei Luogovoi, the lead suspect in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

These EU leaders can join the United States in forming a unified policy on Russian energy that would accelerate the development of the Nabucco pipeline and liberalize trade with Russian energy companies. Prohibiting Gazprom from investing in European energy distribution networks until Russia opens up its own domestic network to foreign investment, as a September European Commission proposal urged, would be a good step in this direction. The West should recognize Moscow's less-than-noble motives in opposing a free Kosovo, and it must blunt the power of the Nord and South Stream pipeline projects. Europe can either accept a grim future under Russia's thrall, or it can begin walking a difficult, if necessary, path.


Russia Could Use Force in Kosovo

Russia's ambassador to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, has warned that Russia could use military force if the Kosovo independence dispute escalates. "If the EU develops a unified position or if Nato exceeds its mandate set by the UN, then these organisations will be in conflict with the UN," he said. In that case Russia would "proceed on the basis that in order to be respected we need to use brute force", he said. Many EU members have recognised Kosovo, but several oppose recognition. Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, backs Serbia, which has condemned the independence declaration issued by the Kosovo parliament on 17 February. On Tuesday members of the Serb minority in Kosovo attacked two border posts staffed by UN personnel and Kosovo police. The violence led the Nato troops in Kosovo - known as K-For - to reinforce the border with Serbia. Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians are following a plan drawn up by UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari for "supervised independence", which was rejected by Serbia.

Russian media outcry

The EU will soon deploy 2,000 officials to strengthen law and order in Kosovo, which has a population of about two million. Russia argues that the mission has no legal basis. There has been a furious reaction in some Russian media to Kosovo's declaration of independence. A commentary in the Vesti Plus analytical programme, on state-run television, called the assassinated former Serbian Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic, a Western puppet who had "received a well-deserved bullet". It said Djindjic had sold national heroes to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The programme concluded that Serbia - and not only Serbia - must now decide whether to acquiesce in what has happened, or resist.


Russia Is Behind Serbian Extremists, Holbrooke Said

Riots near the U.S. embassy in Belgrade is the result of Russia’s support of Serbian extremists, said Richard Holbrooke, top foreign advisor in the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and once the negotiator in the Balkans. "The fact that [declaring independence has] not happened as peacefully as people had hoped is the direct result of the incitement to violence by extremist elements in Belgrade, implicitly and privately supported by the Russians,” Richard Holbrooke told CNN in live air. Holbrooke, chief architect of the Dayton peace accords for former Yugoslavia, is notorious for his anti-Russian rhetoric. Far back past April, when the Ahtisaari plan was under discussion, Holbrooke said: “Kosovo will become independent. It's inevitable. But the Russians are encouraging the hard-liners in Belgrade by opposing the Ahtisaari plan and that is very unhelpful. And if the Ahtisaari plan is not approved by the UN Security Council when it comes up for decision next month, there will be violence in Kosovo, and that will be the consequence of Russian actions, and they should be held fully accountable for that if it happens.”


Russia Pledges Support to Serbia

Serbs pay tribute to Soviet liberators:

The man tipped to become the next Russian president has vowed his country will "stick to" its support for Serbia in opposing Kosovo's independence. Deputy PM Dmitry Medvedev was in Belgrade for talks with Serb President Boris Tadic and PM Vojislav Kostunica. Although its focus is mainly economic, the visit is seen as a sign of support for Serbia's view on Kosovo, the BBC's Bethany Bell in Belgrade says. Kosovo's declaration of independence sparked protests in Serbia last week. "We proceed from the assumption that Serbia is a united country, whose jurisdiction covers the whole of its territory, and we shall stick to this principled stand," Mr Medvedev said during his meeting with Mr Kostunica, Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported. Mr Medvedev's comments, and the timing of his visit, will be seen as evidence that Russia's foreign policy is unlikely to change once serving President Vladimir Putin steps down. Mr Putin's term in office has seen a marked deterioration in relations with the West, most recently over the issues of Kosovo and Nato's ambitions in former eastern bloc states like Poland and the Czech Republic.

'Flagrant cynicism'

Mr Medvedev is the favourite to take over from Mr Putin after next Sunday's presidential election in Russia. According to Itar-Tass, he said Kosovo's declaration of independence was "absolutely at variance with international law". He said he and Mr Kostunica had "made a deal to coordinate together our efforts in order to get out of this complicated situation". A deal between Russian gas giant Gazprom and Serbian state enterprise Serbiagas on a planned gas pipeline in Serbia was signed during the visit, Russian news agency Interfax reported. Our correspondent says Russia has emerged as Serbia's strongest ally in the country's opposition to Kosovo's independence. On Sunday the Russian foreign ministry accused the United States of "flagrant cynicism" in recognising Kosovo's declaration of independence a week ago. The statement followed a comment by US Assistant Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, who accused Russia of aggravating tensions over the Kosovo issue. The US and most European countries have supported Kosovo's declaration of independence.

Border posts row

Also on Monday, Belgrade government ministers arrived in Kosovo, where they were scheduled to visit Serbian communities to press their message that Belgrade still regards Kosovo as its own. Serbian Minister for Kosovo Slobodan Samardzic is leading the delegation. There had been suggestions that Mr Samardzic might be denied entry until he apologised for comments seemingly condoning violence. Mr Samardzic described the burning down of two border posts on 19 February by crowds of Kosovan Serbs as "legitimate" acts. Two days later, Western embassies were attacked in Belgrade, acts Mr Samardzic blamed on the US for accepting Kosovo's declaration of independence on 17 February. "The US is the major culprit for all troubles since 17 February," Mr Samardzic told the state news agency Tanjug. "The root of violence is the violation of international law."


Russia, Serbia Sign $1.5B Pipeline Deal

Russia signed a gas pipeline deal with Serbia Monday that underscored Moscow's traditional ties with Belgrade, even as tensions with the U.S. and other nations rise. The plan clears the way for the construction of the South Stream pipeline through Serbia en route to Western Europe. Details on the agreement -- expected to be worth as much as $1.5 billion -- were expected to be released Monday. The agreement is the centerpiece of a visit to Serbia by Dmitry Medvedev, Putin's chosen successor and the man expected to easily win Russia's presidential election March 2. Medvedev said the pipeline deal, along with others, 'form the foundation of energy stability for all of Europe in the future.'

Though Medvedev's visit has focused mostly on economic issues, talks with President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica also covered turmoil following Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia. Serbs consider Kosovo the heart of their ancient homeland and the cradle of their Serbian Orthodox faith, and reject its independence as illegal. Moscow has emerged as Belgrade's primary ally in the Kosovo crisis. The United States and some European Union nations quickly recognized Kosovo's declaration of independence last week but Moscow sided with Serbia and said it will block Kosovo from joining the United Nations or other international organizations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Kosovo's declaration represented 'a terrifying precedent,' and warned the West that the decision would 'come back to knock them on the head.' Diplomatic officials in Belgrade said Medvedev's statements will be watched closely for indications of Russia's foreign policy after Putin steps down in May. Meanwhile, the pro-Western Liberal Democratic Party planned to protest in front of the Russian Embassy over recent comments on Moscow state television criticizing Serbia's slain reformist Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. Liberal Party leaders said they would try to deliver a letter to Medvedev demanding that he denounce the anti-Djindjic comments. Associated Press Writer Jim Heintz contributed to this report.


In related news:

Armenia not going to recognize Kosovo independence

Armenia has no intention to recognize independence of Kosovo yet, RA Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said in Yerevan today. The issue is under discussion and the decision will be announced when the time comes, according to him. “Granting independence to Kosovo, the international community violated the legal norms but forgot Karabakh. Unlike Kosovo, no one granted independence to Nagorno Karabakh. It was the republic’s achievement. This is the major difference between the conflicts,” he said. On February 17, 3008, Kosovo’s parliament announced independence, which has already been recognized by the U.S. and some European states.


Abkhazia, Transdniestria and South Ossetia prepare joint recognition appeal

"If anyone thinks that Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdniestria will stop after the recognition of Kosovo, they are making a big mistake," announced Abkhazia's President Sergei Bagapsh right after Kosovo unilaterally declared independence against the wishes of Serbia. Along with his counterpart in Transdniestria - President Igor Smirnov - he is now preparing a joint appeal for recognition of the states, turning their current 'de facto' reality of independent statehood into a formal 'de jure' situation after nearly two decades in legal limbo. In both Abkhazia and Transdniestria, residents are now asking: If Kosovo can be recognized as an independent state, why can't we? " - Kosovo is a precedent," declared Bagapsh, saying that Abkhazia, Transdniestria and South Ossetia would submit requests for the recognition of their independence to Russia, the United Nations and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States). At the same time, however, he stresses that the countries have a better case for independent statehood than Kosovo, both historically and legally under international law. " - We said one and two years ago that the recognition of Kosovo was immaterial to us. We started our independence campaign earlier and would continue it to the end," Bagapsh said.

Four unrecognized countries

Along with South Ossetia, Nagorno Karabakh and Transdniestria, the new and emerging Republic of Abkhazia is one of the four former Soviet regions that declared their independence in the 1990s and fought for their independence but that have not yet been recognized as states. Officials and citizens alike are now saying that Kosovo would create a legal precedent that they too could follow. " - If they recognized Kosovo, how are we any worse?" said Nodar Sheoua, a student in Sukhumi, as reported by Reuters. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on Sunday. Less than 15% of the world's countries have given formal recognition to Kosovo. Western backers of Kosovo's independence claim that it does not set a precedent, but the former Soviet nations call this a double standard that will now be harder to defend. Home to more than 200,000 people, Abkhazia has run its own affairs since a fierce war for independence right after the break-up of the Soviet Union. The mountainous state, which borders Russia to one side and Georgia to the other, has its own flag, elected government and armed forces.

Transdniestria announces new era has begun

Abkhazia's democratically elected president, Sergei Bagapsh, said at a news conference last week that his de-facto country was just as entitled to recognition as Kosovo. " - We will shortly apply to the leadership of Russia, the CIS countries, the UN and other international organizations to recognize our independence," Bagapsh said. Transdniestria, which seceded from Moldova before Moldova even was an independent country, said Kosovo proved that international rules on the inviolability of borders "were receding into history." " - Kosovo's recognition produces a new system of measures that we believe should be applied to all countries," said Yevgeny Shevchuk, speaker of the Transdniestrian parliament, told the press.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. Please note that the comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years has helped me see the Russian nation as the last front on earth against the scourges of Westernization, Americanization, Globalism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western/European civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. These sobering realizations compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and perhaps the only voice preaching about the strategic importance of Armenia's close ties to the Russian nation. From about 2010 to 2015, I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult for me as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling, dare I say voice, inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and fully integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relief, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians generally speaking are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. Today, no man, no political party is capable of driving a wedge between Armenia and Russia. That danger has passed. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal.

Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say anything if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important.

To limit clutter in the comments section, I kindly ask all participants of this blog to please keep comments coherent and strictly relevant to the featured topic of discussion. Moreover, please realize that when there are several "anonymous" visitors are posting comments simultaneously, it becomes very confusing (not to mention extremely annoying) trying to figure out who is who and who said what. Therefore, if you are here to engage in conversation, make an observation, express an idea or simply attack me, I ask you to at least use a moniker to identify yourself. Moreover, please appreciate the fact that I have put an enormous amount of information into this blog. In my opinion, most of my blog commentaries and articles, some going back ten-plus years, are in varying degrees relevant to this day and will remain so for a long time to come. Articles in this blog can therefore be revisited by longtime readers and new comers alike. I therefore ask the reader to treat this blog as a depository of important information relating to Eurasian geopolitics, Russian-Armenian relations and humanity's historic fight against the evils of Globalism and Westernization.

Thank you as always for reading.