After Russia under Vladimir Putin has attempted to destabilize Serbia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and said the U.S. shares "Serbia's desire" for entry into the European Union.
"Had a productive conversation with Serbian President @AVucic today at the @MunSecConf," Blinken tweeted Friday. "We discussed the importance of normalized relations with Kosovo and I conveyed our appreciation for Serbia's continued support for Ukraine. We share Serbia's desire for a future with the EU."
Putin has been using infamous mercenary The Wagner Group to sow discord in Serbia, which is becoming closer to America and the West.
Pro-Russian protesters and hardline Serb nationalists protested across the Belgrade capital, saying they opposed the Vucic government's efforts to reduce tensions over Kovoso, a disputed territory that remains for nationalists part of Serbia's historic heartland.
Serbia sees Kosovo as a pretext used by Russia and its paramilitary Wagner Group to ramp up influence operations in an effort to undermine Vucic's government.
The Wagner Group appears closely aligned with the People's Patrol, a Serbian nationalist organization which has referred to Vucic and his party as traitors and threatened to overthrow the government.
Putin has reason to be angered by Vucic, who has moved his country closer to the EU and the United States.
Before this week's meeting, Blinken said Wednesday that Kosovo and Serbian leaders will have to make "difficult compromises" to resolve outstanding issues and normalize their relations.
U.S. and EU envoys are pressing the countries to approve a peace plan presented in mid-2022 under which Belgrade would stop lobbying against Kosovo having a seat in international organizations including the United Nations.
Kosovo would commit to forming an association of Serb-majority municipalities under the proposals.
Both Belgrade and Pristina have accepted the EU plan in principle, saying it is a good base for further negotiations. Normalization of relations with Kosovo is one of the key conditions for Serbia to progress toward EU membership.
Belgrade has long performed a delicate balancing act between its EU aspirations and partnership with NATO on the one hand and its centuries-old ethnic and religious kinship with Russia.
Serbia has repeatedly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine in the United Nations and other international forums, but Brussels has formally pressed Belgrade to introduce sanctions against Moscow.
Serbia, completely landlocked, has pushed back because its economy is almost entirely dependent on Russian natural gas. The EU has not provided the Serbs with an alternative source for gas.
Newsmax writer Marisa Herman and Reuters have contributed to this report.
Eric Mack ✉
Eric Mack has been a writer and editor at Newsmax since 2016. He is a 1998 Syracuse University journalism graduate and a New York Press Association award-winning writer.
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