The report by the US Department of Defence about the intensified cooperation with Russia since President Aleksandar Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party came to power in 2012 proved what was suspected for some time and showed that the West attitude toward Serbia’s President should change, Edward Joseph, a lecturer at John Hopkins University in Washington DC told the Voice of America (VOA).
Primarily due to the Belgrade – Moscow cooperation in intelligence matters, Joseph said.
Radio Free Europe (RFE) had access to the Pentagon report from May this year, which described Serbia as the most indulgent environment for the Russian influence over the Western Balkans.
The Pentagon reports says, among other things, that Serbia was the only regional country which purchased Russian weapons worth over a million Dollars since 2012, including MIG-29 jet fighters and helicopters.
Commenting on the US report, Vucic said that such but also quite the opposite accusations were coming daily, proving the strength of Serbia's politics based on independence. "No one in Washington, Brussels or Moscow will decide on my behalf. Serbia's people decide on the country's politics. I've seen many such articles saying Vucic and Serbia should be threatened. You can threaten, we will work and build. We'll always work with everyone, but will always respect Serbia's interests," he said.
"The reasons are clear, and that relationship is symbiotic. The key issues in the report, though we haven’t seen the original, are already known: we know about the MIG-29 and other forms of cooperation. But the fact it has been officially reported is important and suggests that the relations are beneficial for both Serbia and Russia,” Joseph said.
He added that the report also challenged “President Aleksandar Vucic’s sincerity in saying he is interested in the European Union membership. How can he be leading such a policy? It should also be said that Serbia has recently signed a trade agreement with the Euro-Asian Union sponsored by Russia. Though a bit reluctantly, Serbia signed the agreement.”
“This report is a warning to the diplomats who talk to Vucic to be careful about his cooperation with Russia since we now know that the US is aware of how deep and widespread that cooperation is,” Joseph added.
"Cooperation with Russian intelligence services does not go together with the EU.”
The Pentagon report also pointed out the cooperation between Moscow’s and Belgrade’sintelligence services, adding Serbia was the only country covered by the document which cooperated with Russia in that area.
"That’s probably the most interesting single element in this report and should not be ignored and say that Vucic only balances in relationships. The cooperation between the intelligence services goes beyond that. Once you enter the spying zone and collaboration in that field, it is incompatible with the West and the EU. The diplomats should not ignore that. However, that’s not a huge surprise since there are doubts that the humanitarian centre in ( Serbia’s southern city) Nis, in fact, is used for collecting intelligence data. But, since we now have the official confirmation about the intelligence cooperation, it should be a crossroad in the international community relations with Belgarde,” Joseph said.
"The talks with President Vucic must be more open, and he should not be begged any longer to find a solution to Kosovo’s issue and to be somehow compensated for that. No one should think about compensating the leader who has such broad cooperation with an enemy as Moscow is and who works against his people and eliminates the freedoms they are entitled to,” Joshep said."
Commenting on the affair involving a Russian spy and Serbia’s retired army officer, Joshep said the most logical explanation was that the event was Serbia’s Government deliberate move, maybe in cooperation with Russia, to divert the attention from a more serious scandal,” with Serbia’s Interior Minister and his father and dubious arms trade deals.