Two Parades and a Drone

Whereas there was at least some humor in the grim reality of Bosnia’s general elections – which, by the way, returned mostly expected results (Economist‘s wishful thinking aside) – the situation in neighboring Serbia this autumn of 2014 has been all grim and no funny.

Even the "gay pride" parade, held in Belgrade on September 28, was a sordid affair. With thousands of police sealing off downtown Belgrade, the expected riots did not materialize. European tourists and Western ambassadors – who made up a significant portion of the parade – had their bit of fun, but not for long.

Having thus abased itself before Washington and Brussels, the government in Serbia tried to appease its own populace by inviting Russian president Vladimir Putin to a military review on October 16, celebrating the 70th anniversary of Belgrade’s liberation from the Nazis in WW2. This had the Empire so irked, it tried to stop or sabotage the visit with a media blitz. When that failed, it was the drone’s turn.

Two days prior to Putin’s visit, the international soccer qualifier between Serbia and Albania was disrupted by a drone flying an Albanian chauvinist banner that flew onto the pitch and started a riot…

The "New Normal"

In the years following the October 2000 coup, Empire’s relationship with Serbia has followed a predictable pattern: a government loyal to Empire’s interests would be set up, then given an increasingly humiliating series of demands. If and when it refused to comply, it would be replaced by someone more cooperative. The current regime, led by former "radical nationalists" born-again as pro-Imperial "progressives", has been the most spinelessly sycophantic so far (and that’s saying something).

In 2010, when the previous government tried to organize a "Pride", the anti-government riots almost spilled over into civil war. For the next three years, the "parade" would get canceled at the last moment, as the government would fear a repeat of 10-10-10. And every time, the Empire and its Brussels lackeys would absolutely insist it take place. Make no mistake, this had little or nothing to do with the actual rights of Serbians with alternative sexual identities, and everything to do with imposing the will of the Empire on all.

In a rare moment of honesty, the BBC reporter from Belgrade admitted that, "Keeping Brussels happy is undoubtedly the motivation for allowing the Gay Pride march to go ahead." He later noted that "ambassadors from numerous European countries addressed the crowd."

This year’s march was heavily promoted by Western "human rights" groups, such as Amnesty International (see here), and the actual U.S. Embassy. "It takes time, but hopefully, this will become a new normal," a local ABC News reporter quoted Ambassador Michael Kirby "as he walked in parade" [sic]. She also quoted a number of 5,000 gendarmes guarding the event, outnumbering the participants by five to one. Official Serbian reports spoke of seven thousand gendarmes.

Having celebrated the Orthodox Feast of the Holy Cross the day earlier, with a peaceful march against the Imperial "pride", Belgraders by and large stayed home. The only incident took place when the Prime Minister’s brother tried to force his way through the police line, believing himself to be a VIP. Unaware of being in the presence of the First Sibling, the gendarmes roughed him and his bodyguards up. Despite the PM’s promises there would be no reprisals for people who were – after all – just doing their job of repressing the citizenry, a Gendarmerie commander and seven officers involved were sacked two weeks later, and may be prosecuted.

Ahhh, democracy.

A Game of Drones

In that context it might be easier to understand why, despite a heavy police presence, security for government officials was so criminally lax during the October 14 soccer qualifier for the 2016 European cup. For the first time since the 1999 Kosovo War – in which Albania fully backed the NATO assault on then-Yugoslavia and the subsequent occupation of the province of Kosovo, since handed over to an ethnic Albanian separatist government – Serbia and Albania were playing an international match.

Everything was going smoothly, until a remote-controlled quadcopter appeared on the pitch in the 41st minute of the game, carrying a banner depicting a map of Greater Albania. Portraits of two rabidly anti-Serb Albanian leaders were also on the banner, though few recognized them at the time. After a Serbian player reached up and took down the banner, he was attacked by two Albanian players, starting a general riot. The police quickly established order, and the hosts offered to either continue or postpone the game – but the Albanians refused to play at all.

Western media coverage, of course, made it sound as if rabid Serbian fans mobbed the innocent Albanians after seeing an "Albanian flag." This despite the fact that Albanian fans bragged on social media about a "splendid little provocation" (in the words of one Kosovo Albanian politician), and that UEFA rules strictly penalize all political banners at games. Or, for that matter, that someone flew a drone – even if a toy one – into a game attended by the country’s highest officials.

It did not help that brother of the Albanian PM was briefly detained on suspicion of controlling the drone from his VIP seat, but was released after reportedly waving about his US passport.

Putin’s Triumph

Though Serbian authorities had just demonstrated complete inability to control their sky, Vladimir Putin looked relaxed when he landed in Belgrade on Thursday morning, two days later. Serbia’s PM and President greeted him with a strange mixture of groveling and reluctance – both products of their relationship with the Empire, which did not approve of Putin’s visit, or the military parade, in the least. From Ambassador Kirby to NATO "activists" and the pro-Imperial media in Serbia itself, all the heavy propaganda artillery was trying to put the maximum amount of pressure on the government to ensure it didn’t get any ideas about independence.

Putin himself appeared unfazed. He shrugged off the drizzle that threatened to mar the ceremonies in New Belgrade, and stoically stood through the review of what one suspects might be all of Serbia’s remaining military hardware after 15 years of "democratic reforms" under Imperial sycophants.

The Serbian military parade may have appeared insignificant when compared to Russia’s spectacles celebrating the defeat of Hitler every May – but even as such, it had layers of significance not readily apparent. The first display of Serbian arms in over a century honored Putin – and the 1944 Soviet liberators of Belgrade – and at the time when its Empire and EU overlords were backing Nazis in Ukraine and accusing Russia of "aggression." That was enough to seriously annoy the Empire even if Putin had done nothing else in Belgrade. But he also received a Serbian medal, signed a couple of trade agreements, and told the press – and his hosts, whether they understood or not – that Russia did not bargain with her friendships.

Ambassador Kirby, so eager to march in the "Pride", was pointedly absent from all ceremonies.

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.