CEAS Press Release - Do Not Withdraw From Multinational Operations

The Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies from Belgrade (CEAS) expresses concern over the announcement that there is a possibility that the recent decision of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, to freeze all military exercises and activities with all partners for the next six months, will extend to the participation of Serbian forces in “peacekeeping missions". The possibility of such a decision, that was announced to the public by the Minister of Defense, Aleksandar Vulin, who also advocates it professionally, would be detrimental to our country on many levels.

CEAS reminds that our state and army have more than six decades of tradition in participating in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions, and that we also participate in European Union (EU) led military missions and operations, ever since 2012. Serbia is the ninth country in Europe in terms of the number of its participants in UN mandated peacekeeping missions, and the third based on the number of inhabitants. This rightly places us among the respectable and credible global partners in establishing and preserving peace, and certainly positively contributes to our negotiating positions in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, but also to the decision on whether KFOR remains in Kosovo and Metohija, the importance of which is often emphasized by our officials.

CEAS believes that the withdrawal of Serbian forces from multinational operations, and especially from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon-UNIFIL, where currently as many as 177 members of the Serbian Army are deployed, would harm Serbia's credibility with the UN partners.

The decision would also damage strengthening relations with the United States, following Serbia's recent diplomatic success in Washington, especially after yesterday's praise by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, for Serbia's decision to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and President Vučic's response:

"Following the tradition of our honorable ancestors, Serbia continues to fight against all threats to peace, both internal and external. Rest assured, dear friend, Secretary Pompeo, that we remain steadfast in the pursuit of peace and stability, thus contributing to global security.”

We remind that in May this year, the US representative to the UN pointed out that, “The Trump Administration remains committed to its partnership with Lebanon, and it is because of our commitment that we want to see UNIFIL operate as an effective force."

CEAS believes that the government's decision, in its present form, is good and especially important due to the timing of Serbian Army’s participation, together with members of the Russian and Belarusian armed forces, in the Slavic Brotherhood exercise in Belarus and the complexities of current events in that country, that could have geopolitical implications. This decision is a logical continuation of the previous government’s decision to join the EU declaration on electoral irregularities and post-election events in Belarus. Subsequent participation in military exercises would be inconsistent with the previous government’s decision and would jeopardize the credibility of the Republic of Serbia on international scene. The decision came at the last minute, especially having in mind false information about the activities of our armed forces in the events in Belarus, which unfortunately quickly spread among the decision makers and those who influence them with their analyzes and comments, and knowing from experience how difficult it is to deny such information, despite the timely reaction of the Ministry of Defense.

CEAS believes that the decision could have been less comprehensive, but given other challenges facing Serbia, most notably negotiations with representatives of the Provisional Authorities of Kosovo and Metohija, and the importance of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 for the negotiating position, CEAS understands this move. On the other hand, the decision to withdraw from multinational operations, in which the representatives of the Provisional Authorities in Kosovo and Metohija cannot even participate, would be considerably damaging.

14 September 2020, Belgrade