A Possible Future For NATO In The Western Balkans
The Western military alliance NATO wants to bring the Western Balkan countries as member states in the near future. Indeed, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen seems passionately devoted to this issue. Two out of six former Yugoslavian republics have already joined the NATO pact. The remaining four are in pre-membership bodies hoping to one day gain entry.
For Bosnia, Montenegro and Macedonia, the road to NATO membership seems fairly straightforward and achievable. Practical requirements are closely connected with reforms in military organization, legislature, budgetary reform and reaching technical readiness to be in line with highest NATO standards. These three countries are receiving financial and expert help from NATO, and it is expected that all of them will be welcomed to the organization in the next two to four years.
But in the case of Serbia, probably the second or even the strongest military force in the Western Balkans, the hurdles to NATO membership are not technical, but ideological and historical. Serbia may never become a NATO member -- though if it did, it might carry benefits for the entire Balkan region.
A few months ago, Russian PM Vladimir Putin visited Serbia and issued a clear threat to Serbia that if they joined NATO, his country would withdraw political and economic support. That move would have an enormous impact. It would remove their last cards from their hands in their long term goal to regain Kosovo and influence Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Also, after decades of being highly protected at UN Security Council by Chinese and Russian vetoes, Serbia would have to secure support for its interests from the USA or allies. We already know where the USA stands regarding Kosovo's independence and future in the political world. It would also scupper any further claims that the Western world works against Serbia, since after all, they would have chosen to become a member.
While the benefits to Serbia of NATO membership are less clear-cut, the benefits to the region could be immense. Serbia's membership in NATO would become insurance for other Balkanian countries against a repeat of Serbia's aggression in the 1990's.
Esmir Milavic is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist