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"Exchange of fire" between US and Russia over Serbia: What ambassadors' duel means to us

As Russia looks to consolidate its position in the region, the US's softened stance is sending a signal that it's changing its policy toward Serbia, gradually trying to return to the Balkans and takeover primacy in the region

In the Balkan political scene, there has long been a battle between world powers. Relations often deteriorate when it comes to Serbia, as evidenced by the latest confrontation of the future US Ambassador Anthony Godfrey, who, although he is yet to arrive in Serbia, has already had a clash with his Russian counterpart, Alexander Botsan Kharchenko.

Godfrey first accused Moscow of "exerting a malign influence on Europe" - followed by an express response from Botsan Kharchenko, who said Washington was "sparing no effort on its clumsy ideological struggle and overt propaganda."

What does this "exchange of diplomatic fire" and a strongly worded ambassadors' duel bring to Serbia?

As Russia looks to consolidate its position in the region, the US's softened stance is sending a signal that it's changing its policy toward Serbia, gradually trying to return to the Balkans. The aim, experts say, is to take over primacy in the region.

That a deterioration of relations between Moscow and Washington always has consequences for Serbia, but also for the Western Balkans, confirms president of the Center for Foreign Policy and professor at the FPN, Dragan Djukanovic, explaining that this shouldn't surprise us.

Izazovi i perspektive procesa normalizacije odnosa izmedju Beograda i Pristine

Photo: Tanjug/Sava Radovanovic

"Given the trends in US-Russia relations, this 'exchange of fire' between the ambassadors should come as no surprise. The sharpening of relations between world powers always affects the Western Balkans," he said.

Anthony Godfrey, who is coming to Belgrade from his post in Moscow where he was the deputy ambassador, spoke before the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, to say he was fully aware of Russia's aggressive behavior, its malign influence and the misinformation campaign it runs in Europe, and that the United States is making a great effort to counter it.

According to him, Serbia is a political and economic leader and plays a key role in regional stability, and that it's in the strategic interest of the United States for Serbia to develop into a modern, democratic and European nation.

"Serbia is now at a turning point, and political leaders in Belgrade must undertake serious reforms to advance Serbia on its path to the EU," he said.

Entoni Godfri

Photo: US Embassy in Moscow

Reacting to this statement, Botsan Kharchenko said that Washington was "sparing no effort on its clumsy ideological struggle and overt propaganda, no longer worrying about any arguments to support of its fabrications."

Putin's "specialist for the Balkans" also stressed that Moscow rejects on principle the logic of "confrontation" and "competition" imposed by the US side, noting that it is surprising the America's main tasks in Serbia include those that deal exclusively with Serbia's internal affairs.

"That represents direct meddling in those affairs. However, a priority task like the activation of the work of the Specialist War Crimes Tribunal for the KLA is not mentioned at all," the Russian ambassador added.

Explaining the "background of the clash between US and Russian diplomats", Stefan Surlic of the Faculty of Political Sciences said that he thought it was about exaggerating the already well-known positions of Russia and the US.

"There are two reasons for this. The first refers to domestic public, who are pleased to see that two world powers are fighting over Serbia, especially in light of Kosovo's contentious status and unresolved regional issues," he said.

"On the other hand, new, highly experienced diplomats want to position themselves at the beginning of their mandates. Therefore, before the public and political representatives, they show determination in protecting their countries' interests in Serbia," Surlic told our portal, emphasizing that it looks to him as if th media find it attractive to show representatives of the two countries in confrontational relations.

(J.N.)

Tags: alexander botsan kharchenko, anthony godfrey, Russia, Serbia, United States, Western Balkans
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