Rostislav Ishchenko: To Save Serbia is to Save the Balkans

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Somehow things developed in such a way that all big wars of Europe began in the Balkans, noted the President of the Center for System Analysis and Forecasting Rostislav Ishchenko for Sputnik Estonia…

On the 17th of January in New York negotiations between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Greece and Macedonia began. It’s aim is to settle the old, more than 20-years-old dispute about the name of the latter. Greece doesn’t want a State with the name of Macedonia to exist. As a minimum, Athens demands to add to it “former Yugoslavian republic”. Otherwise, according to the Greeks, a threat to the territorial integrity of their country, which includes a region also called Macedonia, is being created.

Macedonians, maybe, would spit on Greek desires, but Athens blocks their accession to NATO and the EU until the issue of their name is definitely resolved. Meanwhile, in Skopje it is considered that only integration into European and transatlantic structures will relieve the country of the danger of civil war.

Hot spots in the Balkans

The Albanian minority in Macedonia has long wanted to repeat the example of Kosovo. In 2001, Albanian separatists already conducted active military operations against the Macedonian army. Back then, everything came to an end with the signing of the compromise Ohrid Agreement, which didn’t fully satisfy any side.

However, Macedonia is not the only hot spot in the Balkans. The President of Serbia Aleksandr Vucic spoke about the military threat to his country during his visit to Russia. Serbia tried to stop this threat (proceeding from Albanian separatists, who aren’t satisfied with just the capture of Kosovo) by entering into NATO and the EU, but the West puts forward to Belgrade newer and newer humiliating conditions, while the process of integration doesn’t move an inch.

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However, after Serbia intensified military-technical cooperation with Russia, in Eastern Europe there was talk about the need to accelerate the process of integrating into NATO the partially-integrated Balkan countries — to prevent the threat of the beginning on a new big war in the Balkans.

How Serbians rescued the Soviet Union

In Russia people don’t just behave in a friendly way to Serbia. Russians consider Serbians as fraternal people. This assessment is absolutely fair. Unlike other Balkan countries, whose liberation from Ottoman yoke happened only due to the forces of the Russian army and fleet, Serbia at first achieved autonomy, and then also independence by its own efforts. The distance both towards the Russian border and to the sea was too large in order for the [Russian – ed] empire to give the [Serbian – ed] principality effective help, coordinating military operations with it.

Nevertheless, Serbia is the only Balkan country that fought on the side of Russia in all wars. Moreover, if Russia entered World War I and saved Serbia, then during the World War II Yugoslavia – led by the Serbian royal dynasty – quite possibly saved the USSR.

According to the “Barbarossa” plan of strategic expansion, the invasion of the Soviet Union had to begin at the beginning of May. But the anti-nazi coup of General Dušan Simović that happened in Belgrade forced Hitler to station in the Balkans two armies and the Kleist tank group. As a result, the attack on the USSR happened 1-1.5 months later than planned.

It is difficult to say how the battle near Moscow would’ve unfolded if the Germans managed to come to the approaches of Soviet capital during a dry season, before the arrival of the autumn impassability of roads and the winter cold weather…

The eleven days that the Wehrmacht spent in April, 1941, during operation “Strafgericht” were wasted. But that’s not all. Croatian and Bosnian regular units fought as a part of the troops of the Reich. And Yugoslavian partisans (both communist and nationalist), although they were led by the Croat Tito, in their majority consisted of Serbians.

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It is precisely Serbian lands that became that unsubdued fortress, for the capture of which Hitler during all the war kept in the Balkans two HQs of army groups, six corp commandments, and two dozen divisions. And after all, two dozen divisions are a lot. In 1941 approximately the same number was in all the group of the [German – ed] “Nord” armies.

To avoid an attack

After the collapse of the USSR, it is precisely the many-centuries old ties between the Russian and Serbian people who allowed Russia to remain an active player in the Balkan region. The other “friends” and “allies” instantly switched to the opposite camp.

Therefore, when there is talk about a military threat in the Balkans (especially about the Albanian terrorist threat), it is necessary to understand that regardless of who receives the first blow, it will be a blow to Serbia, and the ultimate target is Russia.

The US lost in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and North Korea. It is necessary for them to compensate for this somewhere. In the Ukrainian theater they can hope for a draw. But even this is unlikely. But they can try to finish off a Serbia that is isolated and weakened by long-term aggression.

So the military threat in the Balkans is indeed present. As it always happens to American plans, the “fighters for freedom” in the person of Albanian terrorists (who at any time can be joined by the different tribes of Islamist terrorists that are now being repelled in Syria and their colleagues entrenched in the EU as refugees) are put in the foreground.

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Now attempts are made using bloody provocations to push Serbia into making a sharp response, so that it looks not like a victim of aggression, but like the aggressor. Today, like in 1941, it is extremely difficult to avoid an attack. But the experience of Syria, Ukraine, Egypt, Turkey, and other countries testifies that in such a situation everything depends on the leadership of the attacked State. Those who surrender are killed, those who manoeuvre deceive themselves, and those who resist receive help and win.

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