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In Europe, there are not many countries that have not sanctioned Russia for attacking Ukraine.

Serbia is one of the few that has not so far done so. What reasons have the country's leadership given for this decision?

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    There's one thing the answers so far haven't mentioned that I would add on the heap of good reasons they already gave: NATO bombed Serbia in support of Kosovar separatists back in 1999. Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 1:58
  • I'd have to add that there are President elections happening in Serbia, in April. Since, as current president Vucic said that 80% of population will stand on the Russian side, he can't really do nothing different.
    – aca
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 8:22

6 Answers 6

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"They (Russia) were the only country not to have imposed sanctions against us in the 1990s," Vucic said after a National Security Council meeting.

"They also supported our territorial integrity in the United Nations. We must not forget that," Vucic said, referring to Russia's stance on Serbia's former province of Kosovo whose independence Moscow refuses to recognise.

In full:

"As for the sanctions, just tell me how can we simply impose sanctions against Russia overnight just to please someone? Against the only country that did not impose sanctions against us in the 1990s, against the country that has not imposed sanctions against the Republic of Srpska, against the country that saved us in the UN Security Council in 2015? Do you think you have the right to forget such things in state affairs? Let alone that it is dishonest in respect of people who have never done anything wrong against our country,"

The Serbian president stressed that Russia is a major guarantor of Serbia’s sovereignty in the UN Security Council and UNSC Resolution 1244.

Serbia has put its gas and oil sectors in Russia's hands.

In 2008 the Balkan country sold a majority stake of its oil company to Gazprom Neft

Gazprom is the majority stakeholder in the country's sole gas storage facility.

In return, Russia has been blocking membership of Serbia's former province Kosovo in the United Nations.

(In 2019, Vladimir Putin presented Aleksandar Vucic with the Order of Alexander Nevsky “for his great personal contribution to the development of multilateral cooperation with Russia.”)

However, Vucic said the National Security Council concluded the Republic of Serbia considers "very wrong the violation of territorial integrity of a number of countries including Ukraine."

“Serbia respects the norms of international law, but understands its needs well and, despite the wishes of others, has its own national interests, respects traditional friendship,” Vučić said. He added that Serbia is temporarily halting military exercises with all states.

After Russia recognized the independence of the LNR and the DNR, Vucic said that this decision “completely changes the world order.”

Also:

Georgia also refused to impose sanctions against Russia. Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said that this “will only harm the country and the population.” He added that Georgia expresses “full solidarity and support” to Ukraine, but will “be guided only by national interests.”

https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/serbia-will-not-impose-sanctions-against-moscow-president-says-2022-02-25/

https://hindustannewshub.com/russia-ukraine-news/serbia-refused-to-impose-sanctions-against-russia-so-did-georgia-the-moscow-times-in-russian/

https://tass.com/world/1411539

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    So Siberia is Russia's Australia (whom have followed the US into every war it's been in no matter how wrong it was). Mental note: Do not mess with Siberia.
    – Mazura
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 0:44
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    @Mazura Siberia and Serbia are not the same
    – Rob
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 2:55
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    @Rob - whoops. I should probably re-read this whole page. Also... Siberia isn't a country.
    – Mazura
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 3:50
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    @Mazura although I suppose it is true that Siberia have followed Russia into every war (since they are part of Russia). And I believe it's still good advice not to mess with Siberia.
    – James_pic
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 10:07
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    @Mazura Australia has not followed the US into every war. In fact, they voted in favor of a resolution condemning the invasion of Granada. And "whom" is not a subject pronoun. Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 19:32
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There are many reasons, going to more or less recent history:

  • Serbs are Christian Orthodox, who have been traditionally supported by Russia at the times when they were in conflict with Muslims (Turkey) or Catholics (Austro-Hungarian empire, notably in World War 1).
  • Serbia is among the countries with the largest losses in World War 2 after the Soviet Union, and many parallels with the anti-Nazi fight in USSR (in terms of the strong partisan movement, the Nazi policies against Slavs, etc.)
  • Serbia was the leading member of the Kingdom and later the Republic of Yugoslavia that disintegrated in the 1990s into seven different countries (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro), whose independence from Serbia was actively supported by NATO (infamously culminating in the bombing of Belgrade in 1999) - see Yugoslav wars.

In other words, Serbs have a historically positive attitude towards Russians (just like in some countries Russians are historically perceived as aggressors or barbarians). Russia was pretty much the only Serbia supporter in this latter episode and its aftermath. Although since then Serbia largely normalized its relations with its neighbors and the European Union, its political and economical ties with Russia remain very strong - and it is ultimately the politics and the economy that determine such decisions.

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    Otherwise good points. IIRC Poland lost more people in WWII than all of Yugoslavia. I would have thought Germany also lost more people, but don't have the numbers at my fingertips. Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 16:43
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    "largest second losses": should that be "second-largest losses"? Also, losses of what? Soldiers? Civilian population? Something else? @JyrkiLahtonen see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties. Regardless, the central point of this answer is correct; Russia has a long history of supporting Serbia and vice versa.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 17:55
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    @JyrkiLahtonen I think that those numbers represent only the winning side in WW2
    – aca
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 18:59
  • @JyrkiLahtonen I have edited this part.
    – Morisco
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 11:54
  • @aca sorry, that was an omission on my side.
    – Morisco
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 11:55
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In addition to the quotes from interviews presented in other answers, the Serbian National Security Council passed a resolution, signed by the President, in the evening of February 25th which included the following official justification against the implementation of sanctions:

  1. Starting from a fact that its elementary duty is to invest all its efforts in preservation of peace and wellbeing of its citizens, while considering the need to possibly impose restrictive measures or sanctions against any country, including the Russian Federation, the Republic of Serbia will be guided exclusively by protection of its vital economic and political interests. As a country that experienced sanctions of the West in the recent past and whose compatriots in Republika Srpska are suffering from sanctions today, the Republic of Serbia believes that it is not its vital political and economic interest to impose sanctions against any country at this moment, nor to representatives or business entities of the respective.
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Serbia will not impose sanctions against Moscow, president says

"They (Russia) were the only country not to have imposed sanctions against us in the 1990s," Vucic said after a National Security Council meeting.

"They also supported our territorial integrity in the United Nations. We must not forget that," Vucic said, referring to Russia's stance on Serbia's former province of Kosovo whose independence Moscow refuses to recognise.

...

Russia has [also] been blocking membership of Serbia's former province Kosovo in the United Nations.

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Apart from being politically and culturally close to Russia some Serbians harbor similar fantasies of a Greater Serbia as Putin harbors of a Greater Russia. Like Russia, they believe that the current political borders, for example the independent Kosovo, are imposed from the outside (primarily by the West) and are historically wrong, untenable and in need of correction.

As an example, Aleksandar Vučić, the current Serbian president, has said in the past:

Slobodan Milošević was a great Serbian leader, he had the best intentions....

Regarding the Russion invasion, Reuters quotes him:

They [Russia] were the only country not to have imposed sanctions against us in the 1990s.

They also supported our territorial integrity in the United Nations. We must not forget that.

The last part refers "to Russia's stance on Serbia's former province of Kosovo whose independence Moscow refuses to recognise" (Reuters), as does Serbia.

Another example is a pro-Russian demonstration of thousands of Serbs on March 4, who expressed their support for the Russian invasion.

In other words, many Serbs, including their president, are ideologically on Putin's side and simply find no issue with the Russian invasion.

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    About the similar fantasies: Almost every single country in this world had a period of "greatness" which is recalled every day by a "nostalgic" (aka nationalist), this sometimes does not align precisely with both leaders, countries or ideologies.
    – juagicre
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 8:26
  • Yeah, you have always that group of extremist in every country, but don't you think that the whole Serbian population fantasies a Greater Serbia, as you said. This idea doesn't seem to be relevant to the most of the people who live here. Aleksandar Vucic may have said that, but in his era of politics (which I personally don't like), he never mentioned or tried to do anything beside keeping Kosovo as a part of the state.
    – aca
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 8:33
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    This has literally nothing to do with current decisions of Serbian government.
    – Davor
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 10:11
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica - quote mining a single sentence from 5 years ago from a known imbecile that is Vucic does not in any way explain current decisions. In fact, your last sentence is strait up a lie and anti-Serb propaganda. That same president explicitly stated that Serbia supports territorial integrity of Ukraine (and is also accepting refugees and sending help).
    – Davor
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 12:11
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    @Davor Also, of course he is a known imbecile, like all nationalists. But he is also head of an important party and president of the nation. What does that say about the nation? It is a safe conclusion that "some" Serbs harbor Great-Serbian dreams, that they are represented in the government, and that this is one reason the government does not criticize Putin for his Great-Russian dreams. Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 12:42
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Serbia and Russia have a lot in common in their recent history.

Their larger forms (Yugoslavia and USSR) had communism as their state ideology, collapsed their economies by bad management and enormous military/security spendings and disintegrated in 1990s folowing ethnic and religious conflicts. Conflicts are not fully settled as of now.

Their smaller forms (Serbia and Russia) turned demonstratively to their common pre-communist state religion (eastern orthodox christianity).

The general population of both Serbia and Russia is indoctrinated in their superiority and their entitlement of the "larger forms". The both disintegrations are represented as a result of intense external pressure and sabotage and not as a result of economical and social collapse. The economical and social collapses are attributed to the external forces as well.

So, they have a lot of reasons to be empathical both as a general populations and at the leadership level.

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    Yugoslavian economy was doing pretty fine, the country fell apart due to nationalism and ethnic tensions.
    – Davor
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 10:11
  • Pretty fine compared to other, "more communist" countries is not fine in the general sense. Yugoslavia citizens were way less restricted in travelling and a lot of them did see what other European countries look like.
    – fraxinus
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 11:38
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    I'm not sure what you're trying to say. Yugoslavia had a good economy (not the best, just good), compared to everyone, especially compared to the history of Balkans. In purely economic sense, it was one of the most prosperous periods in our history. You're making it sound like it was some sort of North Korea when it was nothing like that.
    – Davor
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 11:46

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