Former Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the U.S. House of Representatives, Elliot Engel, has commented on Serbia’s anti-Western actions under President Aleksandar Vučić.
During more than 30 years in the House of Representatives, Engel has closely followed U.S. policy toward the Balkans.
In a recent analysis for Foreign Policy, he says Serbia is moving away from democracy and Western orientation.
“Since Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) came to power in Belgrade more than a decade ago, Serbia has moved away from democracy and the West. According to Freedom House, a nongovernmental organization that monitors human rights and civil liberties around the world, the ruling SNS “has steadily eroded political rights and civil liberties, exerting pressure on independent media, political opposition, and civil society organizations,” he said.
Engel also points to Serbia’s growing military cooperation with Russia.
Moreover, in 2019, the U.S. Department of Defense reported that “after the 2012 elections in Serbia, the SNS took steps to expand its military ties with Russia.” Since then, the Moscow-Belgrade connection has continued. In fact, Serbia has yet to impose sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine – which every other country in Europe (except Belarus) has done.”
He says Washington has appeased a semi-autocratic tyrant in the dispute between Kosovo and Serbia – Vucic.
Engel says the Biden administration should help Kosovo strengthen its democracy and consolidate its sovereignty.
“Instead, it is blocking Pristina out of fear that semi-autocratic Belgrade will fan the nationalist flames and ignite the powder keg it has grown in northern Kosovo,” Engel says.
Engel says Kosovo should form the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities, but believes this will not stop Serbia from being the destructive party and that Vučić will continue to promote separatism and incite violence.
Engel says that appeasing Serbia is not working and that it is time to change course to that end.
The Biden administration took the first step in this direction last week when the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Serbian intelligence chief Aleksandar Vulin for “sophisticated corruption … including involvement in a drug trafficking ring” and abuse of his public position to support Russia and facilitate Russia’s malign activities that threaten the security and stability of the Western Balkans. But these activities have continued throughout the serbian government for years, and it’s time to make a real break with the past.”
Engel says the United States should support democracy, the rule of law, a free press, and oppose corruption.
“These characteristics are diminishing in Serbia, but they are increasing in Kosovo,” he says./The Geopost/