The US Ambassador to Serbia, Christopher Hill, said that he understands that Serbia has a long and difficult history of sanctions and that the US understands that, but that it still needs to take a good look at where its national interests lie and that he is sure that sooner or later they will see that they are in the West.
“I would warn the Serbs to understand that this is not their ‘Mother Russia’, we are dealing with a very different Russia,” the US ambassador said last night in an interview with the Serbian broadcaster (RTS).
Hill said that he knew it was difficult and that Serbia had good relations with Russia for decades, but that this was a very different Russia, a Russia that was brutally attacking its neighbours, and that Serbia should make a statement.
He said that he was not putting Serbia’s position in the context of the consequences, but that this is not the old Russia, the one from the 1990s, this is a completely new situation and a Russia that is behaving illegally and a Russia that most of the world condemns and points out that this is an issue for Serbia.
“If you look at Europe, very few countries, I think only Belarus and Serbia, have not imposed sanctions against Russia.” That is the question of whether Serbia wants to remain in this society. Many countries have imposed sanctions and it is costing them. The question is whether they can influence Russia’s behaviour with sanctions, but they have imposed them anyway because they understand that they have to be united and stand up to what Russia is doing,” Hill said.
“Are you going to sit on the fence between good and evil, is there a place for your national interest. People ask difficult questions,” he said and added that he distinguishes between asking difficult questions and threats to Serbia.
Hill said that there are not many countries in Europe that have stopped at condemning Russia but have joined the sanctions and that Serbia “needs to work on this”.
On possible US assistance in case Serbia would be affected if sanctions were imposed on Russia, the US Ambassador said that his country was working to ensure that Serbia had diversified energy suppliers and would continue to do so, and that it was in the interests of both sides.
“We want to work with Serbia on this, and US companies are very interested in Serbia finding additional energy suppliers so that it doesn’t live under the kind of blackmail that comes from Russia,” Hill said.
He said it was in Serbia’s interest to have a variety of suppliers so that it could not be blackmailed.
“There is definitely a political cost involved in the price and any country, including Serbia, should be concerned when a supplier of basic heating and electricity needs ties it to its political needs, as Russia does to Serbia and others,” he added.
On the Kosovo issue, Hill said he understood that it was a big issue for the people of Serbia, but urged them to see the difference between the situation in Kosovo and the current situation in Ukraine.
Russia, he said, signed the Budapest memorandum from May 1994, where it explicitly agreed to respect the territorial integrity of its neighbors, and now it is violating that, and called on people in Serbia to follow what is happening around Ukraine today.
“I understand that this is a big question for people in Serbia. But I also urge them to understand the great difference between that very difficult question and the situation where we now have a great power behaving differently and trying to seize for itself something that belongs to a neighbor. And that is a completely different situation. And I don’t think it’s good to look back on historical similarities, I think we should turn to solving the situation we have today,” Hill said.