Putin in Serbia: Dominance of the US in the Balkans is an enormous destabilizing factor
Part one: Vladimir Putin visits Serbia and meets with his Serbian counterpart. Just before the visit, Putin gave interviews to Serbian media. RT Deutsch documents the conversations with the newspapers Politika and Večernje novosti in an exclusive German translation. [Note: fortunately, German is one of our languages here at FRN]
Politika: Serbia and Russia have been historically, culturally and religiously close to one another for many centuries, and the two countries are also linked by their Brotherhood In Arms in two world wars. We are facing new challenges. How do you assess our current relationships and the prospects for their development? There is a lot of talk about the new pipeline Turkish Stream, is there any chance for our country?
Putin: Indeed, as you said, the good relations between Serbia and Russia are based on centuries of intimate friendship, spiritual and cultural kinship and common sides of history, including the heroic struggle against Nazism in World War II. In the new 21st century, we carefully preserve and develop these valuable traditions of trust and cooperation. This willingness to work closely together in the political, economic and humanitarian spheres is reflected in the bilateral declaration on strategic partnership, which was signed in May 2013.
Today, bilateral relations are experiencing an upturn in all areas. The two-sided trade exchange is growing: in 2017 it amounted to two billion dollars and rose in the just completed year. Russian investment in the Serbian economy has exceeded $ 4 billion.
The cooperation with the oil company Gazpromneft has allowed the Serbian oil industry, principally the Serbian company NIS, to become the market leader in the Balkan energy market.
With the participation of the Russian Railways (RZD) group, the restoration and modernization of the Serbian railway infrastructure is proceeding at a good pace.
As far as Turkish Stream is concerned, the construction is following the original schedule. The pipe-laying in the sea route was finished last November, and is currently on the Turkish Black Sea coast. The connection in the terminal is still being built. We plan to fully commission the pipeline by the end of 2019.
I would like to say that Gazprom is currently considering several different variants for the continuation of the mainland pipeline to Europe. One of them envisages transport via the route from Bulgaria via Serbia and Hungary to the distribution center in Baumgarten, Austria.
In this case, Serbia will not only have Russian gas itself but will also have to ensure transit. Of course, that will bring tangible benefits to the Serbian economy. It will create new jobs and strengthen the energy security of Serbia and Central and Southeastern Europe. Gazprom’s Road Map for the modernization and expansion of the national gas transport network, which was approved in 2017, will also be beneficial for Serbia’s participation in the project.
When finalizing the route for Russian gas supplies, of course, the position of the European Commission will also be taken into account. In our opinion, EU member states interested in Russian gas must seek guarantees from the EU that the plans can not be thwarted by an arbitrary political decision in Brussels.
Politica: Can Serbia, in a situation where the military of the various countries of the region are upgraded and (for example) the so-called Kosovo Army is formed, be neutral with the support of Russia in terms of our neutrality and given the fact that we are surrounded by NATO countries? Can expansion of the defense potential be expected?
Putin: We highly appreciate that the Serbian government is rigorously adhering to its policy of preserving the country’s neutrality. At the same time, we have been helping to strengthen Serbia’s defense capabilities for many years: we supply weapons and military vehicles and help with their repair and modernization. We will continue to expand military-technical cooperation.
I can not deny that we were amazed at the rather passive reaction of the EU to the decision of the Kosovar “Parliament” to transform the security forces of Kosovo into a full-fledged army.
It is obvious that the Serbs living in this province will take such a step as a direct threat to their security. Overall, the move poses a serious risk of aggravating the situation in this region.
It is hardly in the EU’s interest to turn a blind eye to such unilateral actions that grossly violate international law, especially if Brussels continues to expect to fulfill its obligations as mediator in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. We have also said several times that we view the course of NATO enlargement as a relic of the Cold War and therefore as a flawed and destructive military policy strategy.
Today, the Alliance is working to expand its presence in the Balkans. But it only brings old dividing lines on the European continent back to life and grossly violates the principle that security is indivisible. Ultimately, all of this does not strengthen stability, but weakens confidence and growing tensions in Europe.