Academic event 2011

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Between Neutrality and Ambiguity: Serbia and NATO

Vujo Ilić

‚ FPS, University of Belgrade


The essay presents an attempt to examine the main arguments in favor of Serbia’s NATO approximation. It is possible to distinguish three basic positions towards NATO in Serbia: the first one advocating the approximation, the second strongly opposing it and the third in favor of maintaining the status of proclaimed ‘neutrality’, although open for its revision. The issue of NATO memberships stirs occasional debates in Serbian public, with most vocal arguments stemming from the ‘anti-NATO’ camp. Nevertheless, the essay argues that the burden of proof should fall on the proponents of  NATO approximation for  at least two reasons: as a prerequisite for a reasoned public discourse but also as a mean to change mostly negative public opinion towards NATO, which is considered a prerequisite for any aspirant country. The essay analyzes eight most often mentioned  arguments in favor of approximation. On one hand, these are: benefits of joining NATO as ‘the most powerful alliance in history’, avoiding danger of becoming a ‘geostrategic island’, claim that Serbia's recent history would’ve been different if it were a NATO member and relying on NATO to secure Serbian claim to sovereignty over Kosovo. The second strain of arguments claim benefits in form of technological modernization of army and reducing of military spending, benefits to the overall reform of security sector, suggests potential NATO membership as an attractor of foreign direct investments and finally as an impetus to EU approximation. These eight arguments are accessed by presenting historical arguments, analyzing available data and comparing different experiences of countries that were or are in a situation comparable to Serbia as well as consulting the available research on costs and benefits of  joining the military alliance. The conclusion is that most, but not all arguments suffer from fallacies and it reiterates the need for a continuous dialogue and more reliable argumentation in public debate.


About author:


Vujo Ilić graduated in International Affairs at the Univeristy of Belgrade - Faculty of Political Sciences. He is currently working as a Research Trainee at the FPS and finishing graduate studies at the same faculty with a thesis on secession theories and the case of Kosovo. Since 2008 he has been working as the secretary at the FPS Center for Peace Studies and since 2009 as a Teaching Assistant at the same faculty. His main interests are Peace and Conflict Studies and Foreign Policy Analysis. Vujo is proficient in English and has a basic knowledge of Russian language.