The UK will in effect be crossing its own Rubicon should it take steps to request of Serbia that it denounce its Russian ally, in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning scandal.
Moscow and Belgrade have long since forged impregnable ties, which have only strengthened during the perceived impression of anti-Slav bias from those seemingly more concerned with recognizing Kosovo’s sovereignty, whilst failing to deal with creeping Islamification in Europe – the latter being an issue both Serbia in its bitter dealings with Muslim-majority Kosovo and Russia’s bloody conflicts in Chechnya have first hand experience. Russia, regardless of its guilt or otherwise, would therefore have little problem convincing Serbia of an anti-Putin, anti-Slavic and pro-Islam conspiracy underpinning Theresa May’s immediate assertion that Sergei Skripal and his daughter were attacked as part of murderous plot hatched behind Moscow’s Kremlin walls.
Should Serbia wish to manoeuvre into a position where it can apply for EU membership, it will not only be expected to make peace with Kosovo but also recognize its former province as sovereign. Although the extreme seriousness of the Salisbury poisoning cannot be underplayed, it could end up being useful leverage to tempt Serbia into the European fold should the UK, or another EU member, manage to elicit condemnation of Russia from Belgrade. This though would appear unlikely in the extreme.
There is of course little doubt of Russia’s influence within Serbia, although nobody expects its ally to make menacing overtures towards its lands, a la eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Serbia can though use this to its advantage by building stronger ties with the east, although those amongst its population that don’t buy into a persecution complex might resent the lost opportunity to join the EU gravy train. Serbia could expect to materially receive more than it puts in, but the concessions it would have to make to appease Brussels and the EU member states would for Belgrade be beyond the pale.
The appalling turn of events that have seen both Skripal and his daughter fighting for their lives have nevertheless turned into a convenient excuse for countries seemingly anti-Russia and Putin to allow their otherwise latent opinions to come to the fore, rather than condemning such an egregious act for the sake of itself. While it would appear, although it is yet to be confirmed, that Russia may have a case to answer, the worrying trend of using the Wiltshire incident as a vehicle to convey wider feelings towards Russia rather than in incident-specific isolation, shows an increased willingness to adhere to a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ mindset.
Montenegro, as one of the countries to condemn the poisoning, is a country replete with anti-Russian sentiment, and of course has had its own problems with Serbia, both prior to and after the break up of the former Yugoslavia. With a number of alleged Russian-backed plots designed to interfere with the country’s governance and cyber activities, Podgorica won’t have needed much persuasion in condemning an atrocity it will believe, and insinuate, originated from behind Russian lines.
One wonders what this all means for the forthcoming FIFA World Cup, due to be staged this summer throughout Russia. Already renowned for their uncompromising Ultras, the host nation’s more militant fans could, even more so than normal, see English supporters as their scalps of choice. It is though to be considered if Russia, if it is behind the events in Salisbury, has contrived the poisoning only to deny its involvement to invoke more anti-Russian feeling to suit its own, otherwise unknown agenda. Conspiracy theorists suggested the USA contrived 9/11 to give it a ready excuse to bring down elements of the Middle East it long had on its radar. Although accusations and pointed fingers abound, it is unlikely that anybody will ever categorically know the poison’s provenance or who authorized its use. It certainly won’t come to light through a tell-all confession.
There is though a possibility that Russia might be the culprit but not Putin himself; wheels within wheels, the US and Russian Presidents merely being token figureheads without the ultimate power afforded shadowy ‘black ops’ groups operating unilaterally and with impunity? Don’t bet against it.