In March 2020, when the world had started to lockdown due to China’s Coronavirus pandemic, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called the ‘European solidarity’ a fairytale and praised China, saying it was the only country that would help. Nevertheless, the statement had alarm bells ringing not only with the European Union, the United States and the NATO but also with Russia.
Serbia is in the midst of negotiations over its European Union membership. Hence, flirting with China and flaunting it before the EU will help Serbia at the negotiations table. EU is already facing problems like Chinese investments, rising debt and migrant crisis. Thus, Serbia-china ties come as an addition to these problems.
At the same time, Serbia is a NATO ‘partner country’ and is located strategically in the Balkans. However, China has invested billions of dollars here through soft loans for infrastructure, energy projects, etc. Consequently, the Chinese debt trap set up for Serbia poses a significant threat to the United States and NATO in their sphere on influence.
More importantly, Russia has always been the all-weather ally of Serbia. In the hopes to sell its hi-tech S-400 missile defence system, in 2019, Russia deployed them to take part in a military drill in Serbia. It was the first time that the S-400 and Pantsir missile battery, participated in a military exercise abroad. As per media reports, ordinary Serbians too were hopeful and happy about having the S-400. However, to the surprise of all, in June 2020, Serbia purchased China’s medium-range, radar-guided missiles defence system ‘FK-3’. It is considered inferior compared to Russia’s S-400. The decision has come as a rude shock to Russia. It is believed that Serbia ditched Russia to prefer China for this deal. In addition to it, recently, Russia had accused China of illegally copying a wide range of its weaponry and military hardware.
With China as a creditor, Serbia is certain to have debt-trapped itself owing to the vested interests of its leadership. However, technology theft and Serbia are the two glaring examples why Russia should not support China or partner with it even in their common hate for the West and the United States.