At the beginning of May, about ten days after Putin’s army invaded Ukraine, I fulfilled the request of my Russian friend and made an effort to have one of the European media publish one of his short letters. The influential portal from Brussels published his vision of today’s Russia, his homeland, which differs in everything from the opinion of the vast majority of his compatriots, which is why he could not publish it at home. His words have been read by several million people so far.
Today, as we enter the fifth month of Russian aggression against Ukraine, I am fulfilling the second request of my dear friend Sergei. He asked me to help him address people in Serbia, directly and honestly. I am glad that I can do that, because I know that my friend loves his country, just as he believes that people in Serbia love their country no less. Here is that short letter:
“I am Russian, I live in Moscow. Until the age of fifteen, I lived in the USSR. I remember the time when Sarajevo was bombed. While I was attending high school, I was in love with a girl from different class, she was from Yugoslavia. If I remember correctly, her name was Milena. My high school had several embassies in the vicinity, Milena’s parents probably worked in one of them.
However, I have never in my life thought that there was something special between Russia and Serbia. I listened to stories about African countries, China, Latin America, and India, but never before about Serbia, until the day when Russia started promoting the concept of the “Russian world”.
How did it happen that neither I nor anyone close to me knew anything about Serbia? The USSR sought allies in Latin America, Africa and India in order to undermine Western countries and their influence, while trying to pursue Soviet socialist interests. The USSR was disturbed by China’s growing power and tried to reshape relations with China after Mao was disappointed and discouraged by Khrushchev’s public criticism of Stalin, whom Mao sincerely admired.
To be honest: Russia has no friends but the army and navy. This phrase of Emperor Alexander III is even more accurate today than ever. Russia has only opponents and lackeys. In the middle are those that Russia is trying to keep, bribe and recruit. In the middle are those to whom Russia likes to send messages of friendship and camaraderie. While courting and recruiting them, Russia pretends to be their friend and that it takes care of them. Tito, for example, was a friend from a Russian perspective.
However, as soon as a country falls under Russian influence, it no longer interests Russia, there is no more friendship, no camaraderie, no brotherly messages. Russia will be interested only if that country tries to escape to another camp. I believe that this false narrative about unconditional Russian-Serbian friendship began to take root in the minds of the Serbian people only after several countries of the former Yugoslavia decided to move towards the EU and NATO.
Let me be honest with you. We Russians do not love anyone. We even despised other people in the USSR. Our government only pretended to love Uzbeks, Tajiks, Ukrainians, Belarusians and others who lived in the USSR.
We undermined and recruited their ruling class and showered their people with false propaganda, glorifying a friendship we knew very well did not exist. Can you really imagine the friendship between the colony and the metropolis?
Russia does not believe in brotherhood, Russia is building its own reality and trying to surround itself with loyal vassals. The Ukrainians were also our brothers until the day they decided to join the EU. Then the Ukrainians became Nazis and fascists. In order to find out what Russia really thinks about Serbia – the Serbian people should condemn the so-called “Russian world” and show that they are ready to join the EU. Then Russia will show its true face. Feelings are not mutual. Russia uses Serbia as long as it sees it as a means of protection from European and democratic expansion.
Stop believing in myths. Russia is not what you think it is. Russia is lost in time. Russia is not and cannot be an attractive model of society because it is built only on huge revenues from oil and gas. It is the same as, for example, Venezuela or Nigeria, where the ruling class lives in luxury while the vast majority of people are thrown aside and suffer. Russia is sending its emissaries to buy and undermine politicians around the world in order to make their countries loyal to Russia.
While this is happening and while their ruling class is loyal to Russia, the population of those countries is unhappy and wants to merge with the EU and live in a free and democratic world. Only in Serbia exists the unthinkable. While the ruling class wants to join the EU, the people want to remain in slavish loyalty to Russia. And that’s why I say – stop believing in myths, because Serbia has a chance to live better, it just needs to end something it thinks is friendship. Russia has no friends.
If you think I’m exaggerating, look at how things are going with Ukraine. Do you know why we are in Ukraine? We are in Ukraine because the Ukrainians did not want to be part of the imaginary great world together with us; they did not want to be part of a false reality called the “Russian world”. On the contrary, the Ukrainians wanted to be free, and that is something we could not allow. The choice is, therefore, easy for Serbia as well – Do you want to be a despised part of non-existent greatness or do you want real freedom? Break free from the Russian embrace while there’s time. Intimate relations with Russia always end badly. There has not been a single exception in history.”