The only way to respond to the global risks that are affecting Serbia and all countries in the world is with global cooperation which can be achieved through various forms of partnership that do not include membership in NATO – this is the main conclusion of the debate held in the Belgrade Center for Security Policy (BCSP), on the eve of the upcoming NATO Summit.
Around 50 participants, including representatives of many foreign embassies, Serbian governmental institutions and civil society organizations, gathered in the BCSP library for the debate devoted to the upcoming NATO Summit that will be held on 20-21st of May in Chicago.
NATO vs crises debate gathered around 50 prominent participants in the BCSP library
BCSP Researcher Katarina Djokic opened the debate noting that the summit probably will not bring decisions on the enlargement of the Alliance. She pointed out that, instead, an evaluation of decisions on the programs of cooperation with current and future partners is expected.
"Reforms have made the partnership more of a technical than political issue. The changes include the introduction of unique instruments of cooperation so that the NATO partners have access to all activities and are left with the choice of the preferred level of engagement. At the same time, the political-military framework governing the participation of partners in the political consultations changed so that the partners now should have a greater role in decision making".
Litzenberger: Serbia itself to decide on NATO membership
Earle Lee Litzenberger, Sonja Stojanovic and Aleksandar Mitic at NATO vs crises debate
Deputy Chief of Mission in U.S. Embassy to Serbia Earle "Lee" Litzenberger said that the global risks that the world is facing can be responded to only through global cooperation. Presenting his opinion in the debate, the American diplomat explained the importance of implementing Smart Defence in the economically changed world. He also pointed out that it is up to Serbia to decide whether to become a NATO member or not, adding that the U.S. is not exerting any pressure regarding the decision.
"Nobody requires from Serbia, or is putting any pressure on Serbia to opt for membership in NATO. The U.S. and its allies in NATO encourage Serbia to choose closer cooperation because it is already active through Partnership for Peace, but it is up to Serbia and its people to decide themself on membership in the Alliance. NATO is not behaving according to the principle - membership or nothing. Countries like Serbia in the Partnership for Peace choose themselves on the degree of cooperation with NATO", said Litzenberger.
The American diplomat highlighted that the U.S. supports Serbia's efforts towards the European Union accession, emphasizing that the authorities in Serbia should bear in mind that Europe is built on the security guaranteed by NATO.
"The NATO mission in Kosovo, KFOR, is the best guarantee of peace and security in the region, and thus the guarantee of security for Kosovo Serbs, on which Belgrade insists. This is corroborated by the fact that KFOR increased its presence on the ground during the recent elections in order to send message that it would not tolerate the slightest provocation", he added.
Neutrality does not exclude cooperation
Discussion in the BCSP continued long after the official part was over
On the other hand, Chairman of the Board of the Center for Strategic Alternatives Aleksandar Mitic, who also took part in the debate, expressed his opinion that KFOR does not act well in Kosovo because it should more directly demand ethnic Albanians to refrain from violence. Stressing that he belongs to the group of "NATO skeptics," Mitic said that Serbia must organize a referendum on the country's possible future membership, and that this plebiscit should take place as soon as possible.
"It is important that the authorities are not taking steps towards membership behind the back of the public. Serbia should not cast aside military neutrality, since the country can only benefit from such a position. Neutrality means that Serbia should not become a member of any military organization, but it does not mean that it cannot cooperate with them," said Mitic.