Serbia's NATO membership - "red line for Russia"

Russian Ambassador in Serbia Aleksandr Chepurin has said that his country would find Serbia's possible future membership in NATO "unacceptable."

Source: Beta, Tanjug

Speaking at the Belgrade Academy for Diplomacy and Security, he noted that it would represent "utter stupidity if somebody from Serbia were to crawl over and beg (to join), after the bombing that incurred Serbia damages worth USD 120 billion."

"That's the red line that in no way suits Russia. NATO was created against the Soviet Union, which is long gone, and it is absolutely unclear what NATO stands against now - or do you really want to go to war in Iraq, Libya, or Syria? There's no other advantage there - or would you like to fraternize with Turkey, which is a NATO member, " the ambassador asked.

He then said that Austria, Sweden and Ireland are all EU members although they stayed away from NATO, and that membership in the EU does not mean a country must also join the military alliance.

"However, there are madmen who are trying to make use of that thesis," he remarked.

Chepurin also spoke about Russia's "second red line" when it came to Serbia - that "nobody should pressure Serbia during the negotiations to 'tie itself to something'," and that any form of integration "must not interfere with the long tradition of cultural, economic, and political Russo-Serbian ties - because that is primarily in the interest of Serbia."

He stated that Russia accepts that EU membership is the main geopolitical goal of a sovereign Serbia, but that this should not damage its ties with Russia - "nor should it additionally complicate its ties with the Eurasian Union, which will be created in 2015, and which considers development of relations with Serbia as very important."

"It is unacceptable for us that any form of integration should disrupt our relations, for example, our visa-free regime. When Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was in Belgrade recently, he received confirmation in all meetings that Serbia will not join NATO," he said.

Responding to a question posed by former mayor of the Montenegrin town of Cetinje, Aleksandar Aleksić, who asked whether Montenegro's accession to the western military alliance "could be stopped," he remarked that there were "monkeys in politics, like everywhere else."

"Have you seen the media poll about the popularity of foreign politicians in Serbia? If you have not, I will not tell you who is at the number one spot. And the second to last is the one you were probably referring to. It's like fashion. At first somebody is doing it intentionally, and then many who are chasing after that person, hoping for a banana, show up," Chepurin was quoted as saying by Tanjug.

He also stated that NATO represents an atavism from the last century, and stressed that in his previous answer he "did not mean anyone specifically, but gave a general appraisal," while Serbia's membership in NATO would represent a folly.

During his lecture to the students, the Russian diplomat on several occasions noted that "everyone has an imagination that is shattered when it meets the reality," and mentioned Ukraine as an example of a country that "met the reality when it was supposed to sign the free trade agreement with the EU."

"There was an impression that each year tens of billions of euros would be arriving to Ukraine from the EU, while in fact it was about one billion over seven years. The damage from severing the free trade with Russia would have been a hundred times greater," he said.

Such things usually happen to countries that find themselves in a difficult position, when the appeal of "the western centrism" is great, the diplomat noted, adding that the situation was similar in Russia during the 1990s.

Chepurin stressed that his country was offering Serbia "absolute support" when it came to Kosovo, but that he "did not wish to comment too strongly on some internal issues in Serbia."

"There are several possibilities within international law for the thing to be resolved in a way in which Serbian is interested to resolve it. An impression is being created here that everything had fallen through, but this question requires effort and persistence. You must have faith that you are capable of solving that issue. The truth is on your side, and much depends on you," said the Russian ambassador.

At the end of his lecture, Chepurin noted that the privatization of NIS - Serbia's oil monopoly now owned by Gazprom - was "successful," and that if the country had "five such companies" it would not be facing economic difficulties.

Commenting on the start of construction works on the South Stream stretch in Serbia, he said that the pipeline should bring the country not only gas transit fees, but also income from storage, launching of gas heating plants, and other forms of industrial production.

"South Stream will give ten times more than Serbia will get from any donations in the (EU) integration process, and Serbia will control those funds in line with its own wishes. That should be taken into account. Serbia will become the energy hub of the region, and that is an economic, but also a political decision," Chepurin concluded.


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