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    Kosovo Serb caring Serbian flag during the protest against recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, in the northern Serb-dominated part of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Monday, April 22, 2013

    US 'Making an Effort to Squeeze Russia Out of Serbia' - Analysts

    © AP Photo / Darko Vojinovic
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    US State Department Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Hoyt Brian Yee has told Serbian leaders that they should "clearly demonstrate" their commitment to joining the European Union by turning their back on Russia. Serbian political observers told Sputnik that Yee's comments amount to little more than blackmail.

    Serbia Forced to Choose

    Speaking at the Serbian Economic Summit in Belgrade this week, Yee complained that Serbia's continued cooperation with Russia while courting Brussels was akin to 'sitting on two chairs', adding that Belgrade should look at the cases of Croatia and Montenegro, which joined NATO in addition to the EU, as examples of what the US would consider model behavior.

    The US diplomat's remarks prompted a sharp response from Belgrade. Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin stressed that Belgrade has a right to make independent foreign policy decisions, adding that Yee's remarks were not the words of someone who "respects" Serbia. The attempt to pressure the country in this way was "very undiplomatic," Vulin added. According to Serbian newspaper Vecernje Novosti, President Aleksandar Vucic responded to Yee's remarks directly by telling him that "you [the United States] did not behave this way nine years ago," (i.e. during Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, which the US and its allies actively supported). Moscow also criticized the comments, saying that Washington has no right to interfere in Russian-Serbian cooperation.

    Hoyt Brian Yee, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, responsible for U.S. relations with the countries of Central Europe and South Central Europe listens as Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic speaks during a meeting in Belgrade, Serbia
    © AP Photo / Darko Vojinovic
    Hoyt Brian Yee, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, responsible for U.S. relations with the countries of Central Europe and South Central Europe listens as Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic speaks during a meeting in Belgrade, Serbia

    Washington 'Makes Brussels Look Like a US Protectorate'

    Commenting on the diplomatic schism growing out of Yee's remarks, political observer Dragomir Andjelkovic told Sputnik Serbia that the US diplomat's behavior was "extremely cynical," with the US, a country that's not even a member of the EU, attempting to set the conditions for Serbia's EU membership. Yee's comments humiliate both Brussels and Belgrade, Andjelkovic said, and make Brussels out to look like some kind of "American protectorate."

    The political analyst warned that if Yee's comments were sanctioned by the Trump administration, they may indicate that Washington is going to try to move the center of its geopolitical confrontation with Moscow to the Balkan region. "After the crises in Ukraine and Syria, the US sees the Balkans as a suitable region to compete with Russia, and to exert pressure on Moscow and the states that seek to maintain good relations with it," Andjelkovic said. Serbia is one of those states, he added.

    US Losing Grip in the Balkans

    For his part, Dusan Prokovic, a researcher at the Belgrade-based Center for Strategic Alternatives, stressed that Serbia and Russia should expect more statements like Yee's in the future, given a sense of "nervousness" in Washington that it is losing its grip in the Balkans. 

    "If we compare the current situation with that which existed just five years ago, US influence is now incomparably smaller," Prokovic stressed. "If you want to talk about the Balkans, Russia is becoming an increasingly active player, as indeed are China and Turkey…Simply put, the United States is a superpower in decline, and the space they are leaving here is being filled by other powers."

    Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, speaks at a Serbian-Turkish business forum in Belgrade Oct. 10, 2017 during his two day official visit to Serbia
    © AP Photo / Marko Drobnjakovic
    Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, speaks at a Serbian-Turkish business forum in Belgrade Oct. 10, 2017 during his two day official visit to Serbia

    According to the observer, Yee's remarks serve neither Washington's interests, nor those of the Balkan states themselves. "A completely different approach is needed –one that harmonizes positions on what needs to be done, because the American vision for regional security has proven nonfunctional," Prokovic noted. "Yee tells us we must recognize Kosovo's independence, abandon support for [Bosnia's] Republika Srpska, support the US position on Ukraine and the Middle East," etc.

    "In the 2000s, many Balkan states supported Washington in every area, but received no benefit from doing so. Standards of living did not rise, internal conflicts were not resolved, and these countries' position in the international arena was not improved. Of course, the US can be involved in the solution of issues in the region, like other major powers, but in the current approach the US is more a generator of problems rather than a generator of solutions."

    Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic gives a press conference in Belgrade, file photo.
    © AFP 2019 / OLIVER BUNIC
    Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic gives a press conference in Belgrade, file photo.

    According to Andjelkovic, Belgrade must continue to balance its cooperation with all major players in international politics. Serbia, in his view, is situated in an area dominated by the West, and hence is vulnerable to its threats. At the same time, Russia is an extremely important partner to Belgrade, protecting Serbia's interests in Kosovo and Republika Srpska.

    "The most important question is whether Yee's remarks are the policy of the US deep state, or the new official policy of the White House. The answer to that question is something we will find out soon enough," Andjelkovic concluded.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Tags:
    political pressure, pressure, geopolitics, analysis, U.S. Department of State, Hoyt Brian Yee, United States, Russia, Serbia
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