BELGRADE: A US Senate delegation on Tuesday urged Serbia to join the rest of Europe and impose sanctions against Russia for its bloody campaign in Ukraine. "We understand Serbia has a long cultural and economic history with Russia," said Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) after the three-member bi-partisan delegation met Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
"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. 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," he told reporters.
Although Serbia voted in favor of three United Nations resolutions condemning the Russian aggression against Ukraine, it has not joined international sanctions against Moscow.
Serbia, which is formally seeking European Union membership, depends almost entirely on Russian energy supplies. Vucic has said that imposing sanctions against traditional Slavic allies in Moscow would be disastrous for Serbia.
"I think we made the case that as the president (Vucic) has said, the future of Serbia lies with the rest of Europe, lies in the West, and he has been moving in that direction, (with) trade ties, business investment. And as we pointed out, if that's the intent, then certainly looking at the foreign policy that's currently in place by the EU is very important," said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
The senators also said that if Serbia really wants to join the EU, it should reconsider on rapidly arming itself with Russian and Chinese weapons. "In in the long run, I think every country needs to make a decision about whether their security interests are best aligned with China. If Serbia is intent on being a member of the European Union, then it's probably not in their long-term interests to have a security relationship with China," Murphy said.
Serbia's rapid military buildup in the region that was at war in the 1990s has worried its neighbors and raised fears in the West of new possible bloodshed in the Balkans.
Earlier this month, China delivered a sophisticated air defense system to Belgrade despite earlier US warnings that if Serbia wants to join Western integrations it should align its military with Western standards.