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AUKUS: Returning to de Gaulle or a Storm in a Teacup?

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France’s anger at the US-UK-Australia (AUKUS) deal to build nuclear submarines in Australia is palpable but understandable, since Australia has reneged on a multi-billion-euro contract signed with France to supply twelve submarines to Australia. In an unprecedented outburst, Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Foreign Minister, has accused Australia and the U.S. of ‘duplicity, a major breach of trust and contempt’, recalling French ambassadors for consultations. Dismissing Britain as a ‘third wheel’ indulging in ‘constant opportunism’, he said that there was no need to recall his ambassador to London. Here, the implication is that the post-Brexit UK is not even worth the candle. We shall explore in this article whether France is just huffing and puffing in a face-saving gesture or whether her apparent stance could have major implications for NATO and European defense. But first, a spot of history.

From Gaullism to Inconsistency

In 1966, France left NATO’s integrated military structure and expelled NATO headquarters, which moved up the road to Brussels. De Gaulle had proposed the creation of a tripartite NATO, whereby France, the United Kingdom and the United States would be put on an equal footing for the purposes of discussing nuclear strategy. The U.S. and UK refused, leading to France’s withdrawal. By 1999, however, France was in full fling, joining NATO’s illegal attack on Serbia, though swinging back later, along with Germany, in condemning the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Then, under the Blair-friendly President Sarkozy, France rejoined the integrated military structure of NATO in 2009, playing a major role in destroying Libya two years later. To add to France’s post-Gaullist tendency to vacillate, the nation came to renege on the deal, just before its delivery, to provide Russia with two Mistral helicopter carriers, while having to repay Moscow. The Anglo-Saxon pressure on France in the wake of the Crimea’s return to Russia proved too strong for an allegedly independent France. It can be seen here that France did to Russia what AUKUS is now doing to France, thus suggesting an element of hypocrisy. To add to this French bipolar disorder in her foreign/military policy, President Macron described NATO as ‘brain dead’ only two years ago.

Implications

The big question now is whether France is serious about returning to an independent foreign and military policy. If she sticks to her guns, à la de Gaulle, we could then be witnessing an important shift in the distribution of power in the world and, perhaps paradoxically, an improvement of relations between the EU on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other, notwithstanding NATO cheerleaders like Poland and the Baltic statelets. In (neo-)Gaullist terms, this would imply a supranational and independent EU defense force, with France playing a central role nevertheless, albeit with German consent. To understand this, we need to turn to some more history.

The Cold War and an EU Army

The U.S., initially under British pressure on President Truman, decided that it must control what it could of post-war Europe, although in a more overtly benign non-Stalinist, yet CIA-instigated, fashion. Hence the Marshall Plan, the Brussels Treaty Organization (BTO), the (abortive) European Defense Community (EDC) and the subsequent Western European Union, which served as a politically acceptable bridge to accept West Germany to NATO as a full-fledged member. Moscow was again put on the defensive, as in 1812 and 1941.

A genuinely independent European army would have been unacceptable to the U.S.: even the EDC would have depended on NATO, as Article 6 of the treaty made it clear. NATO was shaken by de Gaulle’s withdrawing France in 1966 from its integrated military structure—but not really stirred—although the Gaullist France continued to annoy the Anglo-Saxons with its balancing policy and thus a friendlier attitude towards Moscow than most dared to entertain.

NATO—but essentially the U.S. and the UK—became increasingly worried at any tendency of the EU going it alone in its defense policies, not only during the Gaullist era but later as well, because of French and German opposition to the invasion of Iraq, which remains a badly damaged country. But Merkel and Sarkozy then went on to betray Chirac and Schröder.

The transmogrification of French and German policies was truly remarkable. Sarkozy, in particular, overturned the traditional Gaullist policy of independence, bringing France back into the integrated military structure of NATO. Since then, the EU has essentially been a strategic Cold War tool of the U.S., supported in particular by Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania as well as by France and Germany, however, in a more lukewarm fashion.

Some half-hearted attempts were made to give the EU a more independent military identity, hence the European Security and Defense Initiative/Policy/Personality (ESDI/P). This was still to be subject to NATO, since it would only operate in areas where NATO was not engaged. In other words, with NATO agreement. The manic NATO-sponsored EU-enlargement of 2004, virtually synonymous with NATO enlargement, turned the embryonic and battered European defense identity into a damp squib: first, the West European Armaments Group (set up in 1976) died in 2005. Then, the West European Armaments Organization, set up in 1996, died in 2006, probably to be followed by the still existing European Defense Agency. Then, in 2009, the ESDP was subsumed into the Common Foreign and Defense Policy. All these acronymic gyrations were, of course, meant to give expression to the Treaty of Maastricht’s (1992) Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

If anyone is feeling slightly confused by now, then you have understood: it is indeed a confusing story, characterized by disorganization and a lack of leadership, which naturally suits the U.S. military-congressional-industrial complex, whose main aim, some would think, is to demonize Russia and China as well as create a war on terror—if selective—in order to emphasize NATO’s primacy over the EU. To add to the lack of leadership, it is important to remember that there is little agreement among the countries that belong to both the EU and NATO, with Greece, Cyprus and Turkey being prime examples. To complicate matters further, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden are members of the EU but not of NATO, although the U.S. would dearly love to welcome them in. Then we have the NATO-member Norway, which is not in the EU, and, of course, Cyprus, which is in the EU but not in NATO, although it has to be said that because of the British-occupied parts of Cyprus, the latter’s territory is de facto in NATO.

It is time to make a perhaps obvious point: as the Ukraine experience has shown, and is showing, the U.S. is paranoid about a Russia-friendly EU, since that might lead not only to the end of NATO as we know it, but even to a genuinely European supranational force in a few years’ time, which is friendly towards Russia and which will promote European defense industries to the obvious detriment of U.S. shareholders in arms companies. The U.S. is nevertheless quite happy to encourage and sponsor EU defense initiatives, only as long as they are directed against Russia and controlled by Washington in one form or another, as history demonstrates.

The possibility of the twenty-eight EU members actually agreeing to a supranational army is a pipe dream, since Poland and the Baltic statelets, at the very least, would never agree to sever military links with the U.S. Britain, which would never contemplate severing its military links with the U.S., can be guaranteed to fight tooth and nail, together with its strategic master, against a supranational European army.

This may result, however, in the interesting possibility of a two-tier Europe, at least in defense, led by the Franco-Germans: an inner core with its own defense and spending, probably friendly towards Moscow, with its own European standardized weapons, to the chagrin of U.S. shareholders; and an outer core of U.S.-friendly and Russophobe states. We should be reminded here that the first thing that Poland did on entering the EU was purchase 4 billion dollars’ worth of U.S. military aircraft, infuriating European manufacturers. With a strong Russia and an EU army independent of NATO, however, it would only be a matter of time before Poland and the Baltic states accepted the reality to join the EU army or declare themselves neutral.

The alternative to the EU military independence is an EU that continues to obey U.S. diktats, with the concomitant threat to world stability, through a profit-mad arms race. Here, we can recall how France succumbed to U.S. pressure, breaking its contract with Russia to deliver two helicopter carriers, when they had been built and were about to be delivered. This obviously connects to U.S. pressure on Germany to destroy the North Stream II gas pipeline, even though it now only needs the final German go-ahead.

Recent developments suggest that France and Germany are both worried about U.S./NATO muscle-flexing: they were recently reported by Bloomberg to have dismissed as ‘provocative’ Washington’s pressure on them to perform naval drills near the Kerch Strait. Perhaps, we are seeing a slow return to some sort of sanity. The expediently independent attitude of the Italian government is also one encouraging sign. They are, for example ignoring Washington’s threats and are pushing to join China’s Silk Road. All roads lead to Rome, as they say.

At any event, only history exists: it was William Pitt the Younger who, arguably, began the Cold War by criticizing Russia in 1791 for wishing to dismember the Ottoman Empire. The hysterical anti-Russian mentality is still with us today. It was always more anti-Russian than anti-Communist, the latter being an excuse to feed to the masses, in order to disguise hard-nosed business interests.

French Options

In the immediate term, France could offer to sell China some nuclear submarines, delivering a major slap in the face to the Anglo-Saxons. China represents France’s largest bilateral trade deficit (€29.2 billion in 2018). A major military sale to China would offset the trade imbalance. This putative sale is, however, unlikely, as France is apparently concerned at China’s stance regarding the South China Sea. Yet, only ten years ago, the Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Ma Xiaotian, remarked that the two countries enjoy a high degree of mutual political trust, and the bilateral economic and trade co-operation between them is rapidly expanding. He further said that the Chinese side was willing to work together with France to develop the Sino-French comprehensive strategic partnership.

For now, however, direct French military assistance to China is unlikely, if anything because France still has Pacific interests that are incompatible with China’s. Thus, in the wake of the AUKUS deal, France is more likely to further enhance its military co-operation with India. India and France had already decided to intensify defense co-operation early this year, with Paris offering to shift production of Panther medium-utility helicopters as well as 70 per cent of the assembly line for Rafale fighters under the ‘Make in India’ rubric, accompanied by a full transfer of technology. It is eminently possible that France’s military co-operation with India annoyed the U.S. military-industrial-congressional complex, and it may well have justified the AUKUS deal in Washington’s and London’s minds.

To conclude

Prediction is a risky game, especially given the vagaries of individual and corporate human behavior. We may, however, be witnessing a French-led latter-day Gaullist attempt to clip the wings of Anglo-Saxon and NATO attempts to continue/restart (depending on your view) the Cold War. The aim would be to establish a multipolar world, with enough checks and balances to prevent illegal attacks on sovereign states, à la Belgrade, Libya and Iraq.

From our partner RIAC

Professor of Political Ideas and Institutions, Università degli Studi Guglielmo Marconi

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Baerbock has publicly declared ‘a war against Russia’

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image source: Wikimedia Commons

On January 25 Germany and the United States decided to provide Ukraine with Leopard 2 and Abrams tanks totaling 45 (respectively: 14 + 31). Some European countries also intend to join these supplies that could reach around 300 main battle and light tanks during this year. The Pentagon official confirmed that collected ‘the armor basket’ could include 300 tanks and ACV/APC during 2023. It will be 28th ‘basket’ of lethal military supplies of the transatlantic alliance to Ukraine that started on a massive scale in 2022.

– Unlike fascist Germany, current Germany openly declared a war against Russia on January 25. Arguing in favor of sending NATO tanks and ACV/APC to Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said EU countries were fighting a war against Russia. US and EU officials have previously gone out of their way to claim ‘they were not a party to the conflict in Ukraine’.

This is a quotation from what Baerbock has stated at PACE. “And therefore, I’ve said already in the last days – yes, we have to do more to defend Ukraine. Yes, we have to do more also on tanks,” Baerbock said during a debate at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on January 25. “But the most important and the crucial part is that we do it together and that we do not do the blame game in Europe, because

so far from the German Government, it means that her statement is fully shared by the FRG Government we are fighting a war against Russia and not against each other.”

If she has not been sacked and the Parliament.

It also means that the FRG has radically changed its foreign policy and once again is unleashing the next World War – the Third one.

It means that German tanks again will appear in Ukraine and Russia like in 1941-1945.

It also means that pro-Nazi coalition supports ultra-nationalist regime in Kiev that began its own and unprovoked aggression – initially against Donbass in April 2014, and later against Russia in October 2022.

It means that since January 25, 2023 current joint Ukrainian-NATO actions in Ukraine can be politically and juridically labelled as “a declared direct combined Ukrainian-NATO aggression against the Russian Federation”.

Russia angrily reacted to such abnormal statement. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that tank supplies to Ukraine by Western countries testify their direct and growing involvement in their armed conflict. He added that the flow of western weapons to Ukraine does not help potential negotiations between Moscow and Kiev.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that any shipments containing weapons for Ukraine would become a lawful target for Russian forces,

The Russian Embassy in Germany for its part warned that “this extremely dangerous decision [by Berlin] shifts the Ukrainian conflict to a new level of standoff.”

All five parliamentary political parties at the Russian State Duma are demanding from the highest military and political structures in the country to destroy all Ukrainian-NATO heavy weapons – not only at the front lines, but additionally and primarily near Ukrainian-NATO border as soon as such weapons cross it on land, in the air and at sea.

Such destruction will save a lot of innocent lives amongst civilians and military men.

– Moscow has also cautioned NATO and non-NATO members against supplying Ukraine with depleted uranium munitions (DUM) and with long-range weaponry capable of striking at cities deep within Russian territory.

Supplying Ukraine with DUM for western military hardware would be regarded by Moscow as the use of “dirty bombs,” said Konstantin Gavrilov, head of the Russian delegation to the Vienna Negotiations on Military Security and Arms Control. Speaking at a plenary meeting of the OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation in the capital of Austria Vienna, Gavrilov cautioned “western sponsors of Kiev’s war machine” against encouraging “nuclear provocations and blackmail.”

“We know that Leopard 2 tanks, as well as Bradley and Marder armored fighting vehicles, can use depleted uranium shells, which can contaminate terrain, just like it happened in Yugoslavia and Iraq,” he said. “If Kiev were to be supplied with such munitions for the use in western heavy military hardware, we would regard it as the use of ‘dirty nuclear bombs’ against Russia, with all the consequences that entails.”

Gavrilov also warned that Moscow will retaliate if the West were to supply Kiev with long-range weaponry to carry out strikes against Russian cities. “If Washington and NATO countries provide Kiev with weapons for striking against the cities deep inside the Russian territory and for attempting to seize our constitutionally affirmed territories, it would force Moscow to undertake harsh retaliatory actions. Do not say that we did not warn you,” he remarked.

– Ex-President Donald Trump called on Joseph Biden to end ‘crazy’ Ukraine conflict before it leads to the use of nuclear weapons.

“First come the tanks, then come the nukes. Get this crazy war ended, now. So easy to do,” Trump outlined.

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Davos more of a show, no longer so important

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“Davos has become more of a show, it’s no longer so important”, concluded Liviu Muresan from Eurodefense Romania at the end of the webinar recently jointly organized by Eurodefense Romania and the Bucharest-based MEPEI think-tank. In the aftermath of the Davos World Economic Forum, 20 key-note speakers invited to examine this year’s edition did not hesitate to cast a critical eye upon the outcome and some of them were very straightforward in assessing this year’s  WEF.

Adrian Severin, former Romanian minister of foreign affairs, gave a remarkable definition to the Davos WEF:  “something between mythology and reality because politicians come to Davos to look for intellectual validation and economic support, corporatists come to look for intellectual respectability and political assets, civil activists seek kinship with the political power and financial sponsorship. They make a network of self-legitimized supra-national power that combines the characteristics of occult interest groups, influence groups that associate oligarchic cynicism with democratic hypocrisy. A group of self- proclaimed prophets, self-confirming their prophecies.”

Experienced in foreign policy, Severin could identify new approaches during the Forum, so he portrayed in detail “the Davos WEF that turned from an incubator of ideas into a platform for launching messages and trial balloons, from a doctrinal workshop into a ballroom…from a political designer into a moral whistle-blower ….from a producer of doctrines into a producer of dogmas…from the champion of missionary realism into athlete of utopias ….from a platform of dialogue into a platform of war propaganda…from a believer in globalization into a promoter of globalism…from a follower of inclusion into a promoter of exclusion….Davos is at risk of losing popularity and political failure, it no longer solves problems, it either deepens the existing crisis or generates new crises .”

Severin argued that “this year’s edition was significant through the absences rather than through the presences because only Olaf Scholtz was present this year out of the G7 leaders….Russia and China were absent….The president of the European Commission has become a US ventriloquist , no longer representative of the European Union that is neither  Union, and no longer European…The main representatives of the US were absent. Those present discussed everything but the risk of having the world fractured into two blocks with incompatible cultural identities, with the Euro-Atlantic block increasingly weaker than the Indo-Pacific block and the Euro-African-South-American block…the discussion about green energy and other similar topics  is nonsense as long as solutions are not presented.”

Severin believes that the main concern should be “to stop the war in Ukraine and to normalize the dialogue between the Euro-Atlantic and the Euro-Asian blocks”, especially because this year’s theme was “Cooperation in a fragmented world”.

The most inspirational speech was given by Antonio Gutierez, the head of United Nations Organization, who referred indeed to the fragmented world, but Severin pointed to the fact that Antonio Gutierez gave such a speech in Davos and not in the UN in New York or Geneva, a sign of the failure of the UN, which means that the UN and the OSCE must be revived.

General Corneliu Pivariu, former head of the Romanian Military Intelligence, stressed that the Davos meeting actually does not solve any problem of the world. It speaks every year about economic inequalities without solving that, doing every year nothing else than acknowledging the deepening of inequalities. For instance, according to Credit Suisse, between December 2019  and December 2021, the global wealth increased with 42 trillion USD but 26 trillion USD belonged to the 1% richest population, and 16% to the rest of 99% of the world’s population. Another topic is global warming, which is also never curbed, and an Oxfam report released in November 2022 revealed that a billionaire’s annual emissions of CO2 are one million times higher than a person in the 90% of the world’s population.

Carlos Branco, senior analyst with the National Defense Institute in Portugal, confirmed that Davos meeting did not find solutions to the world’s problems. He reminded that, in Davos, Ursula Von Der Leyen, Olaf Scholtz and other leaders spoke of the need to make Europe independent in terms of energy but they did not explain how exactly Europe will manage to provide itself commodities and raw materials, since Europe currently has 37 strategic dependencies out of which 2% from China and 3% from Russia, while the new technologies will still make Europe dependent on Asia. “The future of Europe will depend on how it will position itself in relation to the advanced technologies, Artificial Intelligence,  a.s.o., but for the moment, Europe is trapped.”

As an outstanding expert on Asia, Viorel Isticioaia Budura, former Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific at the European External Action Service and former Romanian ambassador in China and Japan, pointed to the absence of many G7 leaders in Davos as well as of Asian leaders, among which China, which is “the beauty and Miss Universe of the world’s interdependency”, and mentioned the presence of many Asian business people in Davos this year, while reminding of the importance of Asian countries and of the three high-level summits organized in Asia last year, G20, APEC and ASEAN, and of what Anthony Blinken, the US secretary of state, called “the rest of the world”, namely, Asian countries that do not follow the Euro-Atlantic order but have become a significant part of the global economy. Isticioaia Budura wondered if the “re-globalization of the supply chains would be possible” and declared China “the champion and the promoter of globalization.”

Michael Zinkanell director of the Austrian Institute for European and Security, Vienna, expressed his opinion that “we a living in a bipolar world dominated by the US and China while Russia has no ability to project global power, and some clear conclusions after the Davos meeting are that instability is increasing in the world, the world is becoming more and more interconnected and energy independence and decarbonisation are very important for the future”.  Zinkanell sees natural disasters and socio-economic risks as the main concerns for the future, but also the interactions with some authoritarian countries that are trying to lead in this new multipolar world that will allow multilateralism.

Germano Dottori, editor of the Italian Geopolitical magazine, also agreed that Davos meeting became too politicized and not too useful but he sees the prospects for the future of the world “not so bleak like a few months ago.”

Flavius Caba Maria, president of MEPEI, the Bucharest-based think-tank that co-organized the webinar, expert on the MENA region, mentioned a few aspects among which that fact that the representatives of oil and gas companies were welcomed at Davos, unlike Glasgow, which is a sign that renewables cannot entirely meet the energy needs of humanity.

On the other hand, Caba Maria pointed to the BRICS countries and his remarks could be seen as complementary to the idea mentioned by several speakers that the Western institutions seem to have lost their ability to solve the global problems and to ensure economic equality.

Caba Maria emphasized that “the global South is establishing its own system of alliances, turning them into a source to transform global economy, thus creating a development alternative trend, different from the one promoted by the West, with three regional alliances looming: the African Union, the Community of Latin American States and Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Eurasia. Among all these countries, China stands out and everything that’s going on in China is of utmost interest for the other countries, because it has become the world’s largest economy.”

Facts to keep in mind for the organizers of next Davos meetings.

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Serbia must reject the ultimatum regarding Kosovo

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Photo: Presidency of Serbia / Dimitrije Goll

The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic on January 20th  had a meeting with the Western negotiating team about the solution for Kosovo. European mediator Miroslav Lajcak, American envoy Gabriel Escobar, German and French special advisers Jens Ploetner and Emmanuel Bonne as well as Italian prime minister’s adviser Mario Talo once again discussed with the leaders of Serbia (and Kosovo) the plan(ultimatum) that should regulate relations between Belgrade and Pristina. Officially, the plan for a peaceful solution has not been presented to the public. However, Serbian media published the text of the plan and they clearly emphasize that it is an ultimatum from Quinta.  And what is even more important, no one from the Government of Serbia denied it.

Which clearly tells us that the Government of Serbia is releasing the plan(ultimatum) as a trial balloon. However, that decision turned out to be wise, because the reactions of the citizens of Serbia to the plan were more than clear on the point of view that the plan was unacceptable. Because that agreement, among other things, requires that Serbia in practice (de facto) recognize the violent secession of its own Province that is, allow Kosovo to join the United Nations.

The plan compiled by the advisers of the leaders of the two largest democracies in Europe – French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz – represents a gross violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, the basic principles of democratic international relations, the UN Charter, and the OSCE Final Document.

The plan(ultimatum) for Kosovo, humiliates Serbia and the Serbian people by ordering that Serbia respect equality, sovereignty, territorial integrity and the so-called state symbols of Kosovo and all other countries, except it`s own sovereignty, territorial integrity and it`s internationally recognized borders confirmed by the UN, OSCE and other international organizations. Serbia is expected to cooperate in dismantling its own integrity, its own constitutional order and international reputation, so that no one could use the “Kosovo case” as a precedent for unilateral secessions, which primarily refers to Ukraine.

The fact that currently five members of the European Union (Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus) and four members of NATO do not recognize the independence of Kosovo shows how bad the acceptance of the plan would be for Serbia. The goal is also to place all responsibility for the victims and destruction on Serbia, as a victim of the NATO aggression in 1999, and to use this act to justify the aggression against Serbia, which was carried out against the international law.

Kosovo is not a frozen conflict, as claimed in the West and repeated by official Belgrade, nor it can be resolved by an ultimatum to Serbia. The best example of this is Cyprus, which was invaded by Turkey in 1974, and despite this, neither Turkey nor Cyprus (or Greece) agree to any ultimatums, nor does anyone give them. The question must be asked here, how is it possible for Quinta to issue an ultimatum to Serbia and why are the Serbian Government and the President of Serbia allowing it?!

The Serbian Government must apply new tactics

Negotiations on Kosovo with Quinta must first be conducted on essential matters. And that means, above all, the protection of the current Serbian population in Kosovo and the return of the 250,000 expelled Serbs. Regulating the status of Serbian state property in Kosovo, which was seized by the separatist government in the province. Plus, the return of stolen property to the Serbs, who were forcibly expelled from the province.

Also, bearing in mind the aggressive policy of the Kosovo separatists, who, contrary to the agreement with NATO, are sending special units to the north of the province, while perpetrating violence against the Serbs, a new strategy is needed. And this is primarily reflected in the fact that the Government of Serbia must help establish the Republika Srpska in the north of Kosovo. This means that the local Serbs would have their own police(including a special police unit), judiciary, prosecutor’s office, education, health care and control over border crossings. In other words, parity would be established in the armed forces, bearing in mind that it is not realistic to expect that Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic will ever approve the sending of the Serbian Army to Kosovo. In this way, Serbia would strategically strengthen its positions and would wait for a change on the geopolitical scene of the world, until favorable conditions are created for the full return of the southern Serbian province of Kosovo to Serbia.

Otherwise, if Serbian Government agree to Kosovo’s entry into the United Nations, it would mean that Kosovo could unite with Albania, about which Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti also publicly spoke about. This would than open the issue of secession from Serbia of the Presevo Valley and the geographical region of Sandzak. And what is even more important, an incredibly strong pressure to abolish Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina would begin. All of the above would have catastrophic consequences for the country of Serbia, but also for the entire Balkans.

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