Could BRICS Open Its Arms to Serbia?

Photograph Source: 15th BRICS SUMMIT – Public Domain

Long bullied on the Western playground, Serbia finally may acquire a big, strong ally – BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). On March 29, the economic and political behemoth formally invited Serbia to its next big pow-wow in Kazan, Russia in October, an invite which has obvious appeal for Belgrade, especially since Serbia’s waited since 2009 for action on its application to join the European Union. That organization seems in no hurry to admit the country that its military arm, NATO, bombed for two and a half months in 1999, killing roughly 2000 civilians. After that criminal assault, the west proceeded to carve up the country, biting off a huge chunk, which is now independent Kosovo. The Serbs have not forgotten this abuse, nor do they accept the theft of their land. If Belgrade ultimately joins BRICS, the West will get its comeuppance, since such membership would make Serbia the economic powerhouse of the Balkans.

So how did this step toward BRICS come about? Well, back in August, Serbia’s Movement of Socialists got the parliament to apply for BRICS membership. The movement’s August statement argued against joining the EU, citing “the Brussels administration’s hypocrisy, never-stopping political blackmailing and demands that we cede part of the state’s territory.” The party’s statement argued that “nearly two-thirds of citizens consider Serbia’s membership in BRICS as the best and most acceptable integration option.” Republika Srpska, the half of Bosnia-Herzegovina where lots of Serbs reside, was also enthusiastic. Its president, Milorad Dodik, urged Bosnia-Herzegovina to join BRICS tout de suite.

Serbian president Aleksandr Vucic seemed quite pleased to receive the March 29 invitation to the BRICS confab, to which he was invited as a special guest. Special indeed! If Vucic attends, he will be the sole representative of Europe in the BRICS colossus, which includes 45 percent of the world’s population and 30 percent of its land surface. As of 2023, BRICS holds 32 percent of the planet’s GDP, outstripping the G7, which has 30 percent. And those numbers will only grow, as non-western nations (and France) clamor to join. Indeed, in January, Ethiopia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates became part of BRICS.

Meanwhile Serbia “provides solid economic and political support to Republika Srpska. Moreover, every year, Belgrade and [the city of] Banja Luka [in Bosnia-Herzegovina] jointly mark war anniversaries and cultivate shared history memories,” according to Geopolitica December 14, 2023. There’s a commemoration with the Jewish community of Serbian victims of genocide under the WWII Ustasha regime, “and a commemoration for ethnic cleansing casualties in Croatian military operation Oluja ’95.” However, Serbia still seems quite cautious in commenting on Republika Srpska’s eventual independence. President Dodik, however, is not: on April 5 he announced readiness to declare Republika Srpska independent, if foreign pressure on the republic continues. And then there’s northern Kosovo, which has a Serb population. If these two regions and Serbia ever reunite, and do so under the aegis of BRICS, the Serbs will definitely take the economic and political helm of the Balkans.

Lately, Kosovo has aggravated the situation. Its “heavy-handed campaign to assert its authority in the north risks provoking further violent resistance,” according to the International Crisis Group April 2, 2024. “Kosovo should cooperate with NATO peacekeepers to demilitarize the north.” The article suggests Kosovo take credible steps “in line with past unfulfilled agreements…toward assuring self-rule for the northern Serb minority. New local elections should follow.” But according to ICG, northern Kosovo’s hopes for autonomy or union with Serbia have lately dimmed. “These are hard days for the Serb minority, whose future is vital for rapprochement between Belgrade and Pristina [the Kosovo capital].”

Indeed, what happened to Serbs, divided now between three countries, is a classic example of the ancient Anglo-Saxon technique – divide and conquer, a method inherited by the U.S. Empire and most dangerously in evidence these days regarding Taiwan and China. Prospects for some sort of Serbian reunification may be less bloody, in re western intentions, than for China’s union with Taiwan. That’s because negotiations with Serbia and Kosovo are ongoing, but also because the U.S. Congress and White House haven’t worked themselves into a lather over Serbia. After all, Kosovo was largely a (very misguided, to put it kindly and thus sugarcoat the truth) Clinton project, Serbs are European and, not to put to fine a point on it, we’re not talking about commies in the Balkans. Congress and the white house whip themselves up into a frenzy every time they utter the two words “communist China,” and frankly, there’s just no cure for that. The hysteria-inducing anti-communist spirochete swim fast and widely in the American political bloodstream, and they are vaccine-resistant. There is no cure, short of total financial meltdown – which actually may loom on the horizon, but that’s a story for another day. For now, suffice it to say, the Empire beams more sunshine on the Serbs than on the Chinese – so the Serbs actually have a chance of putting their fractured nation back together.

But as Timofey Bordachev wrote in RT April 3: “Americans and Western Europeans may see the Serbs as ‘Russians’ who are weaker and can be defeated. They are much smaller than Russia, disproportionately weaker and surrounded by zones of total NATO influence. In this case, what is happening in the Balkans is a very pertinent, if tragic, example for Russia of what would happen to us if we were forced to surrender. The decades that have passed since NATO’s aggression against Yugoslavia…cannot cure the complex of triumph over a defeated enemy.”

That’s the view from Moscow. It may match the one from Belgrade. If so, don’t be surprised if Vucic accepts not only the BRICS invitation to Kazan, but also, ultimately, BRICS membership (provided such a request is forthcoming). BRICS has won the planet’s popularity contest, because the Global South, indeed almost everyone, wants in. Unlike western groups, dominated by meddlesome Washington, BRICS stays out of its members’ business. How they run their countries is for them to decide and no one is penalized for, say, not letting U.S. investors commandeer their public assets. Nor is anyone punished for being insufficiently “democratic” – a complaint especially ironic coming from an American Empire that has been ranked as a “flawed” democracy in the Economist magazine, and elsewhere found to be imperfect at best, if not a failed one – after all, since plutocrats and their corporations own congress, Washington has some nerve preaching democracy to other countries. And BRICS is sick of such oratory. For that reason alone – and there are many others – it may be a natural home for Serbia.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Busybody. She can be reached at her website.