Serbia Tries to Keep Russia at Arms Length

A journalist at Forbes believes that the Serb’s choice of Boris Tadic over the pro-Russia hardliner Tomislav Nikolic will diminish but certainly not eliminate the Kremlin’s control over national politics. However the report states that all that really matters is the energy business, which Russia was able to sew up before the elections:

“Serbia, Bulgaria, some of the other central European states, they are all aware of the fact that they’re entirely dependent on Russian firms for energy,” said Jon Levy, an analyst with Eurasia Group. However, unlike Poland or Ukraine, Serbia has far less reason to fear Russia playing energy politics, or attaching political conditions to the supply of energy, Levy told

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Serbia’s decision to join Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline project, which will trace a route under the Black Sea and on to Italy via Bulgaria and Serbia. The plan is seen as a competitor to the European Union-backed Nabucco pipeline, which will ostensibly bypass Russia and deliver gas via the Caspian Sea to Europe. (See: “Putin Scores In Bulgaria”)But it is unlikely that Belgrade would have agreed to cement these energy ties if the possibility of joining the European Union was harmed as a result. Although Eurasia Group’s Levy said that the pro-Russian candidate Nikolic would have presented a far more pro-Russian face to the world, no doubt calling for even more Russian investment across many spheres, the real faultlines lie along Kosovo and Europe. (See: “Serbia: Pride Vs. Progress”)Tadic, 50, opposes the desire of the majority-Albanian province of Kosovo for independence, much like Nikolic. But whereas Nikolic sought solace in the arms of Russia, which remains the most vocal opponent of an independent Kosovo, Tadic has expressed no indications that he would confront the EU head-on and ruin chances of accession.It remains to be seen how the future of Kosovo will play out. The chances that the province will declare independence, banking on European and American recognition, are high.In voting for Tadic, the Serbs have denied the Russians an overt political voice in the domestic sphere, even if they have done nothing to damage the blossoming marriage of energy interests between the two countries.