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Fearing Military Threat, Welcoming Energy Investment, Serbia Sides With Russia in Sanctions Battle

Serbian team competing in the Tank Biathlon World Championship in Alabino, Russia, on August 4, 2014. Source DPA
Serbia wants to avoid being pulled into a conflict with Russia.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Serbia’s decision to side with Russia in its sanctions battle with the West helps Moscow cement in part its regional influence in southeastern Europe.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Serbia has asked to be admitted to the European Union by 2020.
    • The former Yugoslav republic has sided with Russia against Western sanctions.
    • In July, Russia announced generous terms for a Gazprom pipeline that will transit through Serbia.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Most eastern European countries have no desire to be pulled into a face-off with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic spoke for his country and others in the region when he said a country can’t implement sanctions against another bigger and stronger than itself.

Serbia, which would like to become a member of the European Union by 2020, is under pressure from Brussels to join in E.U. sanctions against Russia, but Moscow is keeping Serbia, it’s traditional ally in the Balkans, at its side by using both a carrot and a stick.

 

The basic feeling in most of the Southeast European countries is that the politics of the E.U. sanctions are being driven by the Germans, French and Americans.

The basic feeling in most of the Southeast European countries is that the politics of the E.U. sanctions are being driven by the Germans, French and Americans. In contrast to Russia-critical Poland and the Baltic States, nations such as Hungary, Croatia and Bulgaria don’t really fear any impact on their already weak economies because the industries targeted by the sanctions play a comparatively modest role. Up to now, the macroeconomic expectations there were also not even worth mentioning as they were pointed downwards.

The gathering drew British Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince Wlliam and the German president, Joachim Gauck.

The E.U. sanctions against Russland in the wake of the Ukrainian civil war will not stop the planned South Stream gas pipeline. Russia will be smart enough to accept enough compromises from the E.U. commission to ensure that by 2017, Russian natural gas will flow by the Black Sea and through the Balkans to central Europe, bypassing the politically and economically unstable Ukraine.

But the European Union also knows that it would hurt itself if it would permanently prevented the urgently needed gas for many eastern European countries. Time inevitably leads to more moderate politics with a sense of proportion – at the latest come winter, when the heat must be turned on again in Europe.

The author is Handelsblatt’s correspondent in Vienna. You can reach him at: siebenhaar@handelsblatt.com

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