Dead End

Following the first round of presidential elections in Serbia, it looked for a brief moment as if the beleaguered Balkans country might awaken from its propaganda-induced stupor and reject the Empire’s domestic enablers. It came close – about 100,000 votes or so – but in the end, succumbed to fear and despair.

Having lost the first round, incumbent president Boris Tadic launched a campaign of intimidation and panic, telling the Serbians that a vote for the challenger – Radical candidate Tomislav Nikolic – would mean a return to blockade, sanctions and war. Tadic’s past promises, about EU integration and prosperity, were reduced to treasury minister Mladjan Dinkic offering the people free money if they voted the "right way."

Even with the uncivil campaign, overwhelming support of the media and almost bottomless coffers (courtesy of outside sponsors), Tadic merely squeaked by into the second term. Some analysts in Serbia expressed hope that the razor-thin margin would sober up the president and his coterie of Tranzis; so far, that has not been the case.

In the West, the election was regarded as a referendum; Tadic’s victory would mean Serbia was accepting the separation of Kosovo and eventual annexation by the EU. A victory for Nikolic would have meant a turn towards Russia – and a perfect excuse to seize Kosovo. As if in a plot hatched by the Sith, whoever won, Serbia would lose.

Following the Script

A perfect illustration of how the Serbian vote was perceived in the West was an analysis published on Forbes online on January 19. Serbia could "choose to grimly hold onto the breakaway Albanian majority province and sever ties with the European Union," or "accept the humbling reality of Kosovar independence and embrace a new future" within the Brussels superstate.

It accurately predicted Tadic would trail Nikolic in the first round, and actually foresaw the precise winning strategy for the incumbent: "paint Nikolic as a reactionary who’s taking Serbia back into the isolation it escaped from… in 2000."

Even the signals the West was taking from the electoral outcome were predetermined: if Nikolic won, Belgrade would oppose the severing of Kosovo, but: "If Tadic wins, it will mean that Serbs have decided economic progress and good relations with Serbia’s neighbors are more important than the illusion that Serbia simply cannot exist without forcing Kosovo’s Albanian majority into accepting rule from Belgrade once again."

Notice the completely reversed thesis here. In reality, it isn’t Belgrade forcing anything on the Albanians, but the Albanian separatists and their Western sponsors are forcing Belgrade.

False Promises

Tadic’s campaign has made much of the supposed "economic progress" and relations with the EU. It was even said that Brussels and Belgrade would finally sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) at the end of January. Left unmentioned was that the actual SAA talks had begun in in 2005, and never amounted to much. They did serve as a pretext to set up a EU overseer to monitor Montenegro’s independence referendum. (Miroslav Lajcak was later rewarded for his efforts by becoming the viceroy of Bosnia).

At the last moment, however, the SAA was conveniently sunk by Dutch and Belgian opposition: there could be no deal with Serbia until it arrested Bosnian Serb leaders accused (but already convicted in the media) of war crimes. Instead, the EU offered an "interim pact," a completely non-binding protocol promising nothing and delivering even less. Even so, Tadic and his allies in the government are eager to sign, so they can tell their supporters the EU is "almost here, any minute now."

The Real Stakes

Gullible Serbians may actually believe that electing Tadic would mean faster access to EU handouts, but the only thing their greedy paws are going to get is caught in a vicious bear trap the Empire has set. As the Forbes analysis indicated, for Washington and Brussels this election was never about Serbia, but rather about Kosovo.

Iditorials in the New York Times, Washington Post, and the War Street Journal all welcomed Tadic’s election as something that would primarily ease the Empire’s seizure of Kosovo. The Independent actually headlined its report from Serbia: "Tadic victory boost for Kosovo independence," quoting praises for the incumbent’s narrow triumph from such luminaries as former NATO chief Javier Solana, and KLA boss Hashim Thaci.

On Tuesday morning (February 5), the International Herald Tribune published Thaci’s op-ed, titled "Kosovo is ready" and beginning with the words, "Independence is here."

He wrote it with full knowledge that Brussels had just given a green light to an EU mission in Kosovo, supposed to replace UNMIK and "assist" the Albanians in declaring independence. Leviathan’s lawyers claim that UNSCR 1244 authorizes "international civil and security presences" in Kosovo, and that Serbia’s sovereignty can be violated, because it is only mentioned in the preamble of the resolution, which isn’t binding (!). Nothing in the resolution itself, or current international practices, supports this argument; the EU is basically saying "it’s legal because we say so."

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has correctly interpreted that signing any sort of agreement with the EU while Brussels sent the mission, whether it was the actual SAA or the "interim pact," would mean that Serbia implicitly recognized the EU’s illegal takeover of Kosovo’s occupation from the UN.

The EU countered by announcing on Wednesday that the pact would be "delayed," due to Kostunica’s opposition, but that the offer would remain on the table for when Serbian leaders decided to be more "reasonable."

The Kosovo mission, of course, would proceed as planned.

Many Roads, Same Destination

One must by necessity resist the temptation to see everything that happens in politics and diplomacy as coordinated elements of some master plan. Instead, there are clashing plans, plots within plots, wheels within wheels, posturing and preening and bluffing… There are also mistakes, missteps and misconceptions.

It could be that by delaying the pact and blaming Kostunica, the EU is trying to force the collapse of the Serbian government, replacing it with a cabinet more loyal to Tadic (or, more to the point, Brussels and Washington). Or it could be simply an attempt to paralyze Belgrade in the next couple of weeks, just long enough for the EULEX to arrive, and the "independence" of Kosovo to become a fait accompli.

After all, what are the Serbs going to do, fight? They’ve just shown they don’t have the guts.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.