From: Bledar Qalliu
Vucic Brushes Off US Senators’ Call for Serbian Sanctions on Russia

A delegation of US senators have urged Serbia to impose sanctions on Russia in compliance with the EU foreign policy, the latest in a line of unheeded attempts by the EU and US since the Russian invasion of Crime in 2014. In line with his eight-year policy to downplay such calls, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s official statement avoided mentioning Russia, sanctions, and the senators’ call.

In a meeting with Vucic in Belgrade on Tuesday, senators Chris Murphy, Jeanne Shaheen and Thom Tillis stressed the need for democratic countries to send Russia a clear message over its aggression against Ukraine.

“Our delegation brought a strong, simple message to the Serbian President: now is the time for the democracies of the world to unite in our defense of Ukraine,” Senator Chris Murphy tweeted after the meeting.

The senators are touring Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia this week to demonstrate the US’s “commitment to Europe’s sovereignty” amidst Russian expected attempts “to make trouble in nearby fragile regions” during its failure in Ukraine.

“The US stands ready to support stronger alignment and ties between Serbia and its EU neighbors,” US Ambassador to Belgrade Chris Hill further clarified the visit’s main objective.

Whereas Senator Tillis underlined the security element of the visit: “As co-chair of the Senate NATO Observer Group, I am committed to working on a bipartisan basis to provide support to our European partners, and I’m proud to be on this bipartisan delegation to the Balkans to demonstrate our commitment to Europe’s sovereignty.”

Senator Shaheen said that they discussed sanctions against Russia with Vucic, adding that if Serbia’s role is EU integration, it “should have a foreign policy harmonized” with the union.

However, despite the delegation’s explicit concerns, in his statement following the meeting President Aleksandar Vucic avoided mentioning Russia and disregarded calls to align Serbia’s foreign policy with the EU. Instead, he stressed Serbia’s efforts to strengthen regional stability and cooperation through initiatives like “Open Balkan”.

“It is of key interest for Serbia to preserve stability in the region and strengthen cooperation in all areas, especially in the field of economy, because only such a region provides sustainable development for Serbia itself. In this regard, President Vucic cited the ‘Open Balkans’ initiative as an example of successful regional cooperation, which aims to further develop the region and raise the living standards of all its citizens,” the statement said.

Following increasing pressure from the EU and US, Belgrade voted in favor of an UN General Assembly resolution condemning the Russian aggression against Ukraine, as well as for Russia’s suspension of voting rights at the UN Human Rights Council. However, Vucic and the Serbian political leadership have never condemned the Russian aggression in public at home, but have instead downplayed Serbia’s vote under pressure.

Belgrade is the only capital in the world to have rallied three times in support of Russian invasion of Ukraine, as the government-controlled media keep praising Russia’s military might and the invasion itself, while Vucic reiterates his refusal to impose sanctions and portrays himself and Serbia as a victim under Western powers’ pressure.


Read more: Unheeded Since 2014, EU Repeats Calls for Serbian Sanctions on Russia