How do the Serbs see Russia?

Moscow and Belgrade soon no longer friends?

Anyone who travels to Serbia as a Russian is enthusiastic: "Serbs like Russians!" Hospitable, nice, similar languages. This enthusiasm applies not only to everyday folklore, but also to politics. Was true. So far. The current protests against President Aleksandar Vucic could change that. That is why Moscow is worried about Belgrade these days.

The Serbian president is considered to be pro-Russia and his policy towards the Kremlin is predictable. But how long does he stay in office? His country is one of the few remaining Russia allies in Europe. What if Vucic leaves? Is the good bilateral policy being overshadowed? Is the Russian-Serbian friendship threatened?

Both political and economic interests are at stake. Serbia buys Russian weapons and Russian raw materials. Belgrade is interested in the Russian gas pipeline "Turkish Stream" which is currently being built. One of the branches is said to go through southern Serbia, near Kosovo.

Close allies: Russian President Putin (left) with Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic

Oleg Bondarenko of the Russian "Foundation for Progressive Politics" sees all of this at risk if President Vucic is forced to vacate his post. In an interview with DW, the political expert fears Russian investments in the Serbian economy and the stability of Kosovo: "Russia needs a stable Serbia. Russia needs a predictable president like Aleksandar Vucic." Bondarenko suspects that the West has its fingers in the game and is putting pressure on the president to make Vucic the first Serbian politician to recognize Kosovo's independence.

Fear for a close ally

Incidentally, many people in Moscow suspect the notorious "hand of the West". Especially since the US is talking about pushing back Russian influence in the Balkans. The Moscow radio station "Kommersant FM" quotes the political scientist Alexander Safonov: "This pressure from the West consists in drawing Serbia into Euro-Atlantic integration as much as possible. Among other things, the ground should be prepared for NATO accession. Serbia benefits from the fact that it does Anti-Russian sanctions not supported. Unlike President Vucic, the Serbian opposition will not support Russian interests in the Balkans. "

A passer-by in Belgrade hands out Serbian flags on the state visit of Vladimir Putin

Indeed, Serbia is the only country in Europe to oppose anti-Russian sanctions. For Moscow, Belgrade is the key to European politics, Oleg Bondarenko told DW. "By and large, the current protests are aimed at weakening Serbian-Russian relations," the political scientist sums up.

The Moscow publicist Ivan Preobrazhensky contradicts him: "Nothing fundamental will change. From the beginning of the Vucic presidency, Moscow did not see him as a truly pro-Russian politician. Nevertheless, that did not prevent Russia's head of state Putin from establishing good relations with the Serbian leadership build up. " Preobrazhensky has doubts about a change of power in Belgrade. "Even if he did come, there would be enough Moscow sympathizers in a new coalition," the expert suspects. Just like Bondarenko, Preobrazhensky also recognizes the key role of Serbia for Russia's European policy: "The loss of Serbia would be synonymous with the loss of the Balkans," especially because of the Serbian rejection of the western sanctions on Russia. However, he does not believe that a possible change of government in Belgrade will change the Serbs' pro-Russian orientation.