By Dragana Trifkovic
Although NATO officially stands for the preservation of peace and security, its actions result in the exact opposite effects manifested in partitioned states and the spread of terrorism. The citizens of Serbia have an extremely negative attitude towards NATO in regards to its aggressive activities and, above all, our experiences in 1995 and 1999 when this organization bombarded us and thereby violated international law. According to public opinion polls in Serbia, 80% of Serbs oppose any cooperation with NATO. The Serbian government, however, does not adhere to the will of the overwhelming majority of the people, but instead acts as if it is responsible to NATO and not the Serbian state whose interests it is supposed to protect.
Significant advances in Serbia’s cooperation with NATO were realized in 2015. This information can be found on NATO’s official website  in which it is clear that Serbia officially chose the rather strict path of cooperation through the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP). Serbia’s actions in regards to NATO have drawn attention in Russia. This subject was discussed during the closing session of the board meeting of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, at which the Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu presented an analysis of the military-security situation in the world in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin .
The Individual Partnership Action Plan with NATO was adopted by the Assembly of Serbia last year along  with the SOFA agreement  which opened Serbia to this aggressive organization . According to these treaties, NATO soldiers are allowed free transit through Serbia, can use our military infrastructure, and are granted immunity. In addition, Serbia committed to exchanging data with NATO and the EU, destroying “surplus” weapons, training officers in accordance with NATO, etc. It is important to note that these agreements were signed by authorities without the approval of the people. Moreover, in the context of training Serbian officers defined by the IPAP, NATO officer Mark Sisler recently held a lecture in Serbia at the Headquarters of the Serbian Army. On this occasion, he taught Serbian officers about “Russian aggression” against Ukraine .
The Serb leadership headed by Alexander Vucic not only acts contrary to the will of the people, but also very skillfully misled the people about its actual activities. Alexander Vucic is attempting to place the responsibility for putting Serbia at the disposal of NATO on the previous government by manipulating the deal on high level cooperation with NATO signed somewhat earlier. However, not a single government before Alexander Vucic ever signed such a treaty with NATO as the one he is actually responsible for.
In 2006, Serbia did join the military-political NATO program “Partnership for Peace,” but this program comes nowhere close to the level of cooperation established by IPAP and SOFA. Partnership for Peace is based on bilateral and not strategic cooperation. Even Russia joined this program in 1994 . These facts have not been presented in terms of praise for the program, but rather in the context of discerning earlier processes. If in 2006 Serbia was in such a position of needing cooperation with NATO on a bilateral level, in 2016 there are no grounds or compelling reasons for strategic cooperation with NATO. There is a big difference in the conditions that have changed over the course of the last decade. NATO is no longer the sole world power. A strong Russia has returned to the world stage which wants an alliance with Serbia which, according to public opinion surveys, is also desired by 76% of Serbs.
Thus, the Serbian government not only ignores the will of the people, but also does not want to consider changes in circumstances. The court analysts of Alexander Vucic have stubbornly insisted that it is necessary to cooperate with NATO, although this is more likely the personal demand of Vucic. We must not forget the fact that the current government discussed the protection of national interests and presented themselves as patriotic in their pre-election program, but upon coming to power they inflicted immeasurable damage upon Serbia by signing the Brussels agreement with Albanian terrorists, establishing the border between Kosovo and Metohija and Central Serbia, shutting down Serbian state institutions in Kosovo and Metohija, blackmailing the Serbian people in Kosovo into participating in the elections announced by the terrorist “government,” and containing disastrous economic policies which have sold off Serbian resources and put Serbia at the disposal of the NATO pact. Being unsatisfied with any of these acts, Prime Minister Vucic says that we need NATO to protect us. This is a further humiliation of Serbia. In particular, he remarked that we NATO to protect our people in Kosovo and Metohija, although it is well known that the Serbian people there suffered a pogrom under the “protection” of NATO .
As Serbian media is completely controlled, most people in Serbia are not even informed of the imbecile policies of the government, and moreover even have a wrong perception of events in the country . Because of this, several thousand and not hundreds of thousands came out on the streets of Belgrade after the signing of the law confirming the agreement with NATO by the President of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolic. Serbian media were either silent or inaccurately reported the protest against NATO cooperation to the public which took place in the center of Belgrade.
On the other hand, Russian media was full of coverage of the events in Belgrade along with videos from the protests. Cited below is a report from Russian state television in which it was said that thousands of people protested on the streets of Belgrade against this high treason and for the termination of cooperation with NATO .
Such reports were published by all important media in Russia . The reaction of Russian officials followed. The official representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, stated that Serbia’s induction into NATO represented a humiliation for the country . She posed the question: “How can NATO protect Serbs when it kills them?”
A few days later, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Sergey Zheleznyak stated: “Serbs associate the NATO alliance with many thousands of human casualties, suffering, and the humiliation of national dignity and material damage that this nation recently suffered at the hands of NATO. According to various studies, 80% of Serbs do not support cooperation with NATO. Therefore, parliamentary elections and a referendum which would demonstrate whether or not the people support cooperation with NATO is necessary. A referendum is the free and democratic expression of the will of the people, and therefore we, with the Serbian people, stress the importance of a referendum” .
On the basis of these statements by Russian officials, we can conclude that Russian views of Serbia are the most realistic of all. However, the Serbian people are unable to discern the situation in which Serbia has found itself. The first problem is politicians who have concluded a secret agreement, and then the media which creates a false picture. Whenever the public is informed about the agreements, reports are presented in a manner only appropriate to authorities which are unclear and can be interpreted in different ways. In this way, the Serbian government is soothing the public. At the same time, the government asserts that it is cooperating with Russia at the same level that it is with Euro-Atlantic structures. Serbia allegedly cooperates with Brussels, Washington, and Moscow and has a policy of “neutrality.” However, these claims have no basis if we consider that NATO has achieved more in Serbia, de facto fully occupying it, than when Hitler invaded in 1941. Serbia’s cooperation with Russia manifests itself in constantly cancelling agreements when it comes to economic, military, or political cooperation. During the recent visit of the Russian president to Serbia, the Serbian leadership refused to sign an agreement that would grant employees of the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center in Nis diplomatic status. Only after signing the agreement with NATO did the Serbian government speak about allocating diplomatic immunity to the staff of the center, considering this to be an “embracing” of the policy of “neutrality.” The Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center is a civil, not military structure and putting the granting of immunity to the humanitarian center’s employees on the same plane as Serbia surrendering to NATO makes no sense whatsoever.
The image of good cooperation with Russia
Another aggravating instance which lends towards an understanding of the political processes underway in Serbia is represented by Serbian officials’ exploitation of Russia’s good will. For example, after the signing of the NATO agreement, Prime Minister Vucic planned a meeting with the Russian ambassador and had photographs taken of such a friendly conversation relayed to the public. In addition, the media wrote about an agreed-upon meeting between President Nikolic and President Putin as well as about the award given to Nikolic from the Russian Patriarch. Vucic’s previous meetings with Russian officials have been assessed as strategically important, but they have not influenced the Euro-Atlantic course of Serbia. Thus, the Vucic government has managed to create a false impression of “neutrality” and good cooperation with all.
It is crucial for the Serbian public to recognize reality and catch the statements of Maria Zakharova and Sergey Zheleznyak instead of paying attention to the award given to Tomislav Nikolic or the friendly conversation between Vucic and the Russian ambassador.
If the position of the Serbian government was exposed, the people would seriously consider their own destiny. The Serbian people need a democratic path via referendum to judge the IPAP and SOFA agreements signed with NATO. Certain political structures have begun collecting signatures for a referendum on NATO membership, but what should be heard is whether the people support high level cooperation with NATO at all, and not only membership. The level of cooperation with NATO that has been achieved is far more favorable to this organization than Serbia as a potential member of NATO, as within the current framework NATO can do whatever it needs to do while having no obligations to Serbia whatsoever. The IPAP and SOFA agreements, which the Vucic government signed and ratified, are extremely harmful to Serbian national and state interests and inflict far more damage to Serbia than mere membership in NATO itself. Of course, however, Serbia’s membership in NATO should not even be an option at all.
Translated from Serbian by J. Arnoldski
29. February 2016.
(2) Board Meeting of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
(5) What is NATO allowed to do in Serbia
(6) NATO training for Serbian officers
(7) Partnership for Peace
(8) The Pogrom in Kosovo and Metohija
(9) The media blackout in Serbia
(10) Russian news on the anti-NATO protest in Serbia
(11) Russian news report on the situation in Serbia
(12) Serbia’s inclusion into NATO represents a humiliation for the country
(13) Referendum on Serbia-NATO cooperation