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"In the game with the West, Serbia plays the Russian card"

Russia's participation in the negotiations on the future of the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija, which unilaterally proclaimed independence in 2008, was one of the topics of a recent meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Serbian President Alexander Vucic. As the Serbian president said at a meeting with Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko, during the conversation with Putin he received an affirmative answer to the question whether Russia is ready to join the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in case of an attempt to expand the format of negotiations and connect the US to them. This news pleased the Serbian public, as today the demands to involve the US into the talks between the Serbian authorities and the Kosovo separatists, which are held under the auspices of the EU, sound more and more urgent.

Possible Russian participation in the negotiations on the status of Kosovo and Metohija is a joint maneuver of Serbia and Russia, which deserves attention, Serbian political analyst Milan Damjanac told EADaily. In his opinion, thus, the Serbian government shows the West that behind its back there is a strong ally with international authority and that this ally can easily become a defender and patron of Serbia if the West for its part does not offer anything to it. "What the West is likely to offer is the division of Kosovo and Metohija. It seems that this is the basis of the policy of the Serbian government," the expert suggested.

On the other hand, Russia is sending another important signal about its return to the international scene as a world power, Damjanac believes. "After Ukraine, and especially Syria, Russian support acquires a special symbolism - thus the Russians continue the policy of returning to the old paths of world fame and influence," Damjanac said.

According to the expert, the situation around Kosovo is very complicated, and the West has been putting pressure on the Serbian government for quite some time, demanding to agree to accept Kosovo as an independent state in the UN, which contradicts both the constitution of Serbia and international law. On the other hand, the Serbian government is trying to get something from the current negotiations, and it obviously intends to drag them out to this point. In this sense, Serbia plays the Russian card, warning the West: either Belgrade will get something, or no one will get anything, and the frozen conflict will remain in the Balkans, Milan Damjanac explained.

"In fact, for the first time in several decades, Serbia has a strong international partner who wants to help, but who does not have the strength to fight for all Serbian interests. This is perfectly understood by both the Serbian and Russian sides, and time will show what shape this cooperation will take in the future, "the expert said. In his opinion, Russian interference in the negotiations on Kosovo and Metohija seems inevitable, as is the purchase of Russian arms by Belgrade, which is just one of the steps towards achieving a balance in Serbian foreign policy. "After a number of years Russia wants to somehow stimulate its ally and help him," Damjanac said.

On the other hand, he warned, the West will not give Moscow too much leeway in solving the Balkan issues, which he considers to be closed. Therefore, there is a high probability that the Balkans will again become a platform for sorting out their relations with external forces.

"Such a development in the long run will benefit both Serbia and Russia only if it is possible to postpone the decision of the status of Kosovo, and Russia will continue to help Serbia strengthen its position. Only in this way, in the future, the Russian and Serbian geostrategic position can become, in a political sense, offensive, and not only defensive," Damjanac told EADaily.

The participant of the round table held in Belgrade on the topic "Legal, geopolitical and military aspects of the Serbian issue in Kosovo and Metohija", organized by the Zavetnici Party, Belgrade lawyer Goran Petronijević believes that the pressure the West exerts on Serbia puts its leadership in such a position that it cannot but negotiate on the status of Kosovo.

"The time in which we live today is not suitable for resolving the Kosovo issue. It is not ripe yet. Every morning, Serbia is in a better position compared to the previous night. And every evening this position is becoming more favorable in comparison with the position of Kosovo Albanians," Petronijević said.

According to the lawyer, the unipolar world is over. A multipolar world does not emerge - it is already on the stage, as in our days there is not a single important issue that could be solved without asking other states, the expert said. Especially if one of them indicates a particular topic as their interest, he added. "In this sense, we have Russia, which the Balkans and the Serbian issue in the Balkans have identified as a matter of particular importance for Russian foreign policy. One thing is clear: 1999 will never happen again," the expert believes.

"I do not know who advised Ramush Haradinaj ("the prime minister" of the separatist Kosovo - EADaily) to insist on US participation in the negotiations on the Kosovo issue. I secretly hoped that this would happen. I would advise the Serbian authorities to take an additional step forward and reinterpret the thesis "if you want Americans, we want Russians." I must say: no, we insist on Russian participation. Only in this way will we agree with the Albanian proposal," Petronijević said.

In his opinion, there is no need to defend the EU at all costs and praise the great successes of the Brussels administration in the negotiations on Kosovo. "It's better to say: yes, obviously they were unsuccessful. And even if these negotiations led to the signing of any agreements, in any case they did not provide a mechanism for their implementation. Nothing that is profitable for Serbia has been implemented so far. This is the reason why Russia should become not only a participant in the negotiations that will be on our side, but also with the force that will be the guarantor of the implementation of the decisions taken. This could be a formal justification for Russia's accession to the negotiations on Kosovo. And the participation of the US and Russia in the negotiations would mean the return of the Kosovo issue to the UN, "explained Goran Petronijević.

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