US ambassador to Serbia Kyle Scott said in an interview with the radio broadcasting company Vojvodina (RTV): “I see how the Russians actively participate in subversive activities in the countries of the region (in the Balkans) and use the Serbian land for this, I would have called this the malign influence of Russia.” According to the US ambassador, “The United States believes that the Russian humanitarian center in Nis is in fact a center for espionage.”
For the sake of persuasiveness, ambassador Scott referred to the statement made earlier by the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Brian Yee that “there are concerns about Russian events in the region that are not aimed at supporting Serbia’s strategic goal of integration into the Western community.”
What is the center in Nis?
The Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center (RSHC) operates in the south-east of Serbia, in the city of Nis. It was established by agreement between the governments of Russia and Serbia on April 25, 2012.
The RSHC is an intergovernmental humanitarian non-profit organization. As stated in the statute of the center, it was created to provide humanitarian response to emergencies in the territory of Serbia and other countries of the Balkan region. It is entrusted, in particular, with the fulfillment of such tasks as the prevention and liquidation of emergency situations, including extinguishing fires, providing humanitarian assistance to the affected population. The Center implements joint projects and programs in Serbia and other countries of the Balkan region, including demining.
During its existence, the RSHC has already conducted operations to help and eliminate emergencies in the territory of Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece and Slovenia. The center was particularly distinguished during the liquidation of the consequences of the devastating floods in Serbia and other Balkan countries in May 2014. For two days, Russian rescuers evacuated from the flooded zone more than two thousand inhabitants.
What to do when there seemed
It would seem that the center in Nis is completely understandable and transparent. But no, the attacks from the US in its address are heard more often. On June 22, the Russian Foreign Ministry was forced to react to another portion of the drafts from the representatives of the State Department. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that American diplomats made “absolutely unthinkable, absurd, far-fetched accusations in the worst traditions of the Cold War.” “Allegedly it is almost a spy nest of Russia in the Balkans, which is supposedly capable of endangering the American contingent in Kosovo,” Zakharova said.
A month earlier, as Freedom radio reportedly told, at the meeting in Belgrade with Alexandar Vucic (then prime minister and now Serbian president), Hoyt Brian Yee “called on the Balkan countries to defend themselves against Russia’s attempts to strengthen its influence in the region and undermine their links with the West.” “By experience, we know that the intentions behind Russia’s many steps are bad and do not meet the interests of the countries in this region,” Yee said.
He cited “an example of a coup attempt in Montenegro in October, probably organized by Russia, to prevent the country from integrating into NATO.”
However, as for Montenegro, neither the authorities of this country, who recently dragged it into NATO contrary to the will of their people, nor their patrons in Washington and Brussels, have so far produced any convincing evidence of Russia’s involvement in this notorious “coup attempt” in Montenegro. As, indeed, the very fact of the “attempt”.
Squadron is needed
Which, by the way, is interesting: Russia also criticizes its own center in Nis. According to the management, it is not perfect yet and needs “fine-tuning”. Having visited Serbia at the recent inauguration of President Alexandar Vucic, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that, in fact, “so far this center is not even real”. According to him, there must be a squadron of aircrafts capable of extinguishing fires, other forces and means, special technologies that can provide these humanitarian functions. There is nothing for now.
Vice Prime Minister Rogozin added that it is necessary “either to bring to mind and register this center, to obtain the necessary immunities, like any international center working in Serbia, or to close this office”. According to him, Russia believes that the center is needed primarily for those who regularly face the problem of forest fires in the region.
What is useful for the Serbs, death for Americans
Of course, the Americans can understand the position: all Russian is potentially dangerous. Even the most emphatically peaceful and useful initiatives of Russia in the Balkans should be pressed, just in case, because the less, the better.
Perhaps, under external pressure, the Serbian authorities have not yet granted the Russian employees of the center in Nis a diplomatic status. For five years now this has been puzzling in the official Moscow, which, in fact, Rogozin said, mentioning immunities.
However, the Americans do not hide that their “recommendations” on Serbia’s domestic and foreign policy are, in fact, requirements. And they try to dictate how Serbia treat the Russians, simply by the principle “well, why not to ask what they can do in response.” Therefore, the same American ambassador Scott calmly allows himself to speculate on what the Serbian authorities should do, as if this is his business. “If it is a humanitarian center, why does its employees need diplomatic status? This status means that no one can verify what they are doing, that they are inviolable,” he said in an interview with RTV.
By the way, we will remind: in 2015, the Serbian parliament had almost secretly ratified the agreement with the North Atlantic bloc, known as the Status of Forces Agreement. Serbia, not being a member of NATO, assumed the obligations that NATO members have full rights to the alliance’s constituent treaties. De facto Serbia is already a member of NATO – without rights, but with commitments. In particular, on its territory are located the so-called “military missions” – or simply the Armed Forces of the alliance.
This means that both the North Atlantic Alliance as a whole and the US military in particular are real masters in Serbia. Therefore, any presence of Russian citizens in military uniform there – who are rescuers from the center in Nis – causes Americans an attack of rage and morbid jealousy.