It was 18 years ago that the Clinton Administration and NATO began carrying out airstrikes against Serbia as part of a campaign to impose Kosovar secession. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic spoke at a ceremony near the site of the most high profile airstrike of that conflict, the destruction of a passenger train that killed 28 people.
And as NATO continues to try to sweep up Balkan nations into their alliance, with Montenegro’s accession likely imminent, Vucic had a clear message: Serbia has absolutely no intention of ever joining NATO, with Vucic adding “we will never be part of the alliance which killed our children, nor of any other alliance.”
The Kosovo War, and the NATO-imposed solution, remain a sore spot for Serbia, particularly as it pertains to the ethnic Serbs in the northern part of Kosovo, who wanted to remain part of Serbia but were required by NATO to be part of the secession.
Vucic is hoping to parlay the anti-NATO sentiment that continues in the country into a victory in the April 2 presidential election. His opposition to joining NATO appears to be a view shared overwhelmingly within Serbia, with a 2015 poll showing only 12% of Serbs in favor of joining, and 73% opposed.
Serbia has a long history of ties with Russia, and has been continuing to improve those ties in recent years. While Serbia isn’t totally averse to contact with Western Europe, and is a serious candidate for joining the European Union. That joining, however, is clearly not going to mean closer ties to NATO.