A delegation of US senators visited Serbia on Tuesday and pressed the country to join the pressure campaign against Russia by imposing sanctions despite its close ties to Moscow.
“We understand Serbia has a long cultural and economic history with Russia,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who made the trip along with Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
“But this is a moment where there is great risk if we, as a democratic community, don’t send a united message about the consequences of Russia’s behavior in Ukraine,” Murphy said. “And our hope is that we will be able to stand with Serbia in the coming weeks and months to send that clear message to Russia.”
Serbia has voted at the UN to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine but has held out on sanctions. Serbia is almost entirely reliant on Russian oil and gas, and President Aleksandar Vucic has warned sanctions on Russia would cost the country “dearly.”
Serbia has applied to join the EU, and the senators said if the country really wants to join the bloc, it should fall in line. “I think we made the case that as the president has said, the future of Serbia lies with the rest of Europe, lies in the West … if that’s the intent, then certainly looking at the foreign policy that’s currently in place by the EU is very important,” said Sen. Shaheen.
While Serbia has EU aspirations, Russia backs the country’s claim over Kosovo, which became an independent state recognized by the West after the US-NATO bombing campaign in 1999.