Talking to CKCU 93.1FM in Ottawa, Dr. Srdja Trifkovic considers the extraordinary readiness of the government in Belgrade to compromise Serbia’s national and state interests in order to demonstrate its subservience to the “international community.”
A recent batch of Wikileaks cables from the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade drastically illustrates the extent of institutionalized political corruption in Belgrade. Except for two opposition groups—the Democratic Party of Serbia of Vojislav Kostunica and the Serbian Radical Party of Vojislav Seselj—every other Serbian political party and almost every politician of note, including senior state officials, are revealed as seeking favors from the American Embassy. In return they provide privileged information, offered surreptitiously, in the form of confidential, off-the-record briefings. At times their behavior amounted to high treason, notably in early 2008 when classified contingency plans concerning Belgrade’s intended reaction to Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence were disclosed to American diplomats in advance of the event itself. Some of these high-ranking officials—including advisors to the President of Serbia, Boris Tadic—have acted, literally, as unpaid agents of the U.S. intelligence.
Trifkovic says that the response of the government of Boris Tadic to the latest crisis in Kosovo defies rational analysis, but is not surprising in the light of Wikileaks revelations:
Three weeks ago the government of Serbia signed the so-called Customs Stamp Agreement and thus accepted in principle that the self-proclaimed authorities in Pristina have the authority to collect taxes and duties on goods entering Kosovo from Serbia-proper. This was a major act of surrender: for the first time Belgrade confirmed in a binding legal form that the Albanian authorities have the attributes of sovereign statehood and are accordingly authorized to take over the customs posts between Serbia and its separated southern province. In practice Belgrade has recognized Kosovo’s independence, the government’s feeble claims to the contrary notwithstanding. The tangible result on the ground came swiftly and predictably: the international authorities in Kosovo brought Albanian customs officers to the border crossings and thus separated the majority-Serb northern Kosovo from the rest of Serbia.
The Serbs in this northern triangle, in Northern Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zubin Potok, Zvecan, are resisting this fait accompli because they see it as a key step in the process that would lead to their eventual expulsion, just as most Serbs south of the Ibar River have been expelled. They have put up barricades to prevent traffic from the border crossings reaching the rest of the Province. By doing so, however, they have hemmed themselves in. The supplies from Serbia are essential to their survival, but those supplies are not getting through. They are running short of fuel, food and other essential ingredients of everyday life. There have been clashes with KFOR at one of the crossings, but on the whole the international powers-that-be are letting the Serbs go on with the blockade knowing that in the fullness of time they will have to come to terms, especially since they have no support from Belgrade. If they did have support from Belgrade it would be possible to improvise alternative crossings on local roads that are not under the control of either KFOR or the Albanian authorities. Without Belgrade’s wholehearted support this is not a viable option.
Asked about the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR), Trifkovic says that both bodies have been actively aiding and abetting the Albanian authorities’ bid for full control over the Province:
EULEX is a mission with an entirely self-generated mandate. Incongruously, it is a “rule of law” mission which has no legal basis whatsoever. Its existence is not provided for by the UNSC Resolution 1244. The only reason it exists is that the EU wanted to invent a role for itself, to marginalize the UN, and bypass the Security Council in applying the Ahtisaari Plan. This role—as could have been predicted with mathematical certainty—proved detrimental to the interests of the Serbs. Nevertheless, the “pro-Western” Serbian coalition government formed after the election of 11 May 2008 accepted EULEX in December of that same year. Moscow was not happy to see this new body entrenched in Kosovo, but Belgrade asked it not to interfere.
As for the nominal UN force, KFOR, it is exclusively a NATO operation. It is unfortunate that it no longer includes a Russian contingent. All of the key KFOR components are provided by NATO powers, which act under the political guidelines from Brussels and from their national governments. They actively support the Albanian authorities and invariably act in a manner detrimental to Serb interests. The remaining Serbs in Kosovo are subsequently squeezed between the Internationals’ hammer and the Albanian anvil, with the government in Belgrade slinking to the sidelines and selling them down the river.
Asked about the notable lack of public support for the Kosovo Serbs by the institutions in Serbia, Trifkovic gave a gloomy assessment:
What institutions? The Royal House has faded from public view and many Serbs no longer see it as a relevant factor. Once enormously influential, the Academy of Sciences and Arts is in a state of suspended hibernation—it is clinically dead, even though the doctor has not made the pronouncement as yet. The Army of Serbia exists by now merely as an operatic guard of honor, to provide the airport decorum for President Tadic’s toing and froing. It is no longer capable of even contemplating its primary mission, armed defense of the homeland against aggression, let alone executing it.
As for the Serbian Orthodox Church, it cannot do much under the circumstances. Unless the Church acts in accord with the secular authority—and the government of Serbia is evidently in the hands of people who are compromising its state and national interests—the Church is unable to exert great influence by virtue of its moral authority alone. The Orthodox concept of the role of the Church in a society is that it should act in symphony, the Byzantine term for harmony, with the secular authorities. When there is the State on one hand and the Church on the other pursuing the same set of objectives—the material and spiritual welfare, security and prosperity of a nation—then the role of the Church can be articulated in the right manner. When the two centers of gravity diverge, the Church either has to adjust to the course of events dictated by the secular authorities—as it is somewhat reluctantly doing now—or else it can try to deviate from that course, defy the authorities, and risk being marginalized the way the former Bishop of Kosovo, Artemije, has been pushed to the margins over the past year.
At the moment there is no future for the Serbs in Kosovo. What can bring different dynamics into the equation is an overall change in the global distribution of power, above all the ongoing gradual decline of the influence of the United States. We are looking at a race between the decline of Serbia locally and the decline of the U.S. globally. I suspect that Serbia may collapse well before the decline of the American global influence makes it possible for the Serbs to contemplate different outcomes and develop new strategic designs for the recovery of what has been lost over the past two decades.
Dr. Srdja Trifkovic, Foreign Affairs Editor of Chronicles, is the author of The Sword of the Prophet and Defeating Jihad.