The first problem noted in the Defense Strategy is the time of its adoption. The Introduction the Draft says: “The Defense Strategy is based on the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia and the National Security Strategy of the Republic of Serbia. It is a basic strategic document that directs the development of normative, doctrinal and organizational solutions of the defense system, planning and financing defense and engagement of defense resources of the Republic of Serbia. “
The defense strategy in the hierarchy of legal acts occupies a place above the laws governing the defense area, and results from the Constitution and the National Security Strategy as a hierarchically higher strategic document. However, on May 9 this year, the National Assembly passed a set of laws from the field of defense, at the time when the drafts of the new Defense Strategy and the National Security Strategy have already been in public debate! It is not clear how the Defense Strategies will “direct the development of normative, doctrinal and organizational solutions of the defense system, planning and financing”, when it will be passed after the laws regulating this area. The impression is that the proposer completely ignored the link that should exist between the strategic documents and the laws, by the very fact that after the set of laws from the defense area in the public debate released the Strategy which should “direct” this area. If there is no specific legal provision and organizational solutions from the Defense Strategy, then we can consider this document as a regular propaganda pamphlet whose authors had no intention of it becoming a serious strategic document on the basis of which defense system would be built.
This fact alone allows us to seriously suspect the intentions of the proposer and to break any further analysis of the Draft as non-serious paper.
“The definitions expressed in the Defense Strategy express the determination of the Republic Serbia to build and strengthen its own capabilities and capacities for defense, in accordance with the decision on military neutrality, as well as through cooperation with security and defense structures of the European Union, participation in the Partnership for Peace program, cooperation with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and other international security and defense entities contribute to the strengthening of national, regional and global security.”
It is stated that the Republic of Serbia will strengthen its defense in accordance with the “decision on military neutrality”!?! It remains unclear who and when made such a decision, what its contents are, and who in Serbia acknowledges military neutrality. So far, the Government of Serbia has pursued a policy of neutrality, whose only content was the decision not to submit an application for the NATO membership, which NATO members recognized and accepted within the Individual Partnership Program (IPAP). Decision not to submit an application for the NATO membership is not from a far enough to make one state “military neutral”. The practice of all European countries that have been neutral so far is very clear. Neutrality implies international recognition, with a clearly defined neutrality content. Neutrality implies a defense based on one’s own forces, which implies essentially different defense system than what is now in Serbia, with a clear projection of how such a system should look in the future, how many military forces are needed to ensure the state from aggression, through deterrence and defense if aggression arises, how many forces we need to be able to guarantee fulfillment of our obligations arising from the Dayton Agreement, to guarantee security for Serbs in Kosovo, how we will finance and organize it all.
Neutrality and defense based on relying on own forces in the modern world has its clear meanings. The Defense Strategy Draft does not provide answers to questions about what Serbia can do to stand behind such a political decision.
It remains unclear how neutrality fits into “cooperation with defense and security structures of the European Union and membership in the Partnership for Peace Program”. About defense and security structures of the EU is referred to as something fluid and far from Serbia, though Serbia declared EU membership its strategic interest, which means full defense and security integration of Serbia into the EU. The following position to develop our own defense and security capabilities through cooperation with the CSTO, creates even more confusion because it is the organization headed by the Russian Federation, which is under the sanctions of the EU, whose membership Serbia wants!?! It is difficult to understand that Serbia, which has the status of candidate for EU membership, puts it in the same plane defense cooperation with the EU and the CSTO, especially if is considered serious, and even more serious conflict on the route between the EU and the USA on one side and Russia on the other. Also, it remains unclear what these
“other international defense and security entities” are, and how by working with them we will contribute to national, regional and global security.
In this section, the Defense Strategy Draft is contrary to numerous strategic and doctrinal documents which were adopted for the purpose of Serbia’s membership in the EU, as well as the policy of the Serbian government that has set membership in the EU as a priority goal.
In the second paragraph of this chapter it is said that “integration processes in the field of security represent significant preconditions for improving peace and stability on a global scale and reducing the danger from traditional military threats”. If so, why is the introductory part talking about neutrality and avoids mentioning European integration, and as a commitment it states cooperation with everyone, even with those who cannot even be identified in the text.
Further in the text, the security environment is described by a whole series of empty phrases without any clear definition who and in which way endangers regional and global security. They are referred to as “some states” which intervene without the approval of the Security Council in the internal affairs of sovereign states. We assume that this refers to the Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, the occupation of part of Georgia’s territory and the support for the armed rebellion in Ukraine. We believe that this should be clearly emphasized in such a document with an adequate threat assessment of such behavior by Russia in international affairs.
The authors of the Draft further state that the active role of the UN, the EU, NATO and the OSCE, and their ability to respond to risks, challenges and threats will continue to have a significant impact on the security situation in Europe. We need to agree with this view because the listed organizations are crucial for peace and stability in Europe.
It remains unclear why Serbia is the only one in this part of Europe that needs cooperation with CSTO, which all countries in the region and the EU consider as the hostile organization.
Of particular interest is the following position from the assessment of the security environment:
“In order to strengthen regional security, the Partnership for Peace program is particularly important, since it enables political, security and defense cooperation among NATO member states and partner countries, on the principles of voluntariness and autonomous identifying activities, in accordance with their own priorities. The European Union’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) remains to have an important role in crisis management and the stabilization of the situation in the areas that are in the European Union’s sphere of interest. Operation of the Collective Security Treaty Organization significantly contributes to the preservation and improvement of the security of the Eurasian area, but at the same time it is aimed at countering challenges and threats of a global character, such as terrorism and drug trafficking. The Russian Federation will continue to strengthen its political influence and promote its own capacities, and at the same time its position in certain regions, as well as in the world.”
What was the purpose of this “analysis”, apart from distributing compliments to all parties is not clear. About CSDP is said that “it continues to play an important role”, from which we can conclude that the significance and power of the EU is decreasing, but that it has saved as much power as it can to act in its “own interest sphere”, although the EU is leading the peace operations around the globe in which Serbia participates. The political and economic impact of the EU which is in the close cooperation with the United States is enormous. To use the term “still” with the power of the EU is not serious.
The Russian Federation “will continue to strengthen the political influence” to whom and where? Talk about political influence of the country under the US and EU sanctions, isolated from the major economic flows with the serious economic decline, no allies, and stuck in a number of conflicts from which it does not know how to get out can only be by people who do not follow the media, unless under political influence is not implied control of several local dictators and criminals. About expanding the capacity of the state that is in difficult economic problems and which depends exclusively on the export of raw materials, no one serious can talk about.
The following position, set out on the 5th page, paragraph 6, especially concerns “First of all, the security situation in the region is jeopardized by attempts to impose an illegal change in internationally recognized borders of the Republic of Serbia through the process of resolving the status of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija”.
Authors of the Strategy Draft, proclaim the process of resolving the status of Kosovo and Metohija and finding a viable solution, in which Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is making huge efforts, as a security threat! From this “analysis” can be concluded that the authors of this document strongly supports political views of some political circles in Serbia that the conflict should be “frozen”, probably until the process “of further strengthening of the Russian Federation” is completed. Draft of a strategic document that is directly opposed to the policy of the President of the Republic and the Government of Serbia, can never become a State Strategy, it can be part of the opposition program, but not part of the state policy.
In a further analysis, it is said that neutrality was proclaimed by the Resolution on the Protection of Sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is pointless, with citing of all the organizations that exist in the world with which “neutral” Serbia cooperates, which is contrary to the idea of neutrality.
Challenges, risks and threats of relevance to defense
At the very beginning of the analysis of the challenges of risk and threats, it is noted that Serbia will develop its defense as a military neutral country, with the aim of achieving the ability to effectively respond to security challenges, risks and threats. However, in a further analysis, it does not show which capabilities are necessary to adequately respond to the assessed threats.
Authors of the Draft do not exclude the possibility of armed aggression against Serbia, and the answer to the aggression is good cooperation with everyone, not specifying who exactly. Cooperation with everyone with the European integration, reduces the possibility of aggression, which is partly true. Authors in a single word, in this part of the text, do not refer to deterrence as the only effective mechanism for preventing aggression, which is achieved in two ways, major defense capabilities, including a well-armed and massive army, or alliances guaranteeing the collective response of Allied states in case of aggression. Such an Alliance today is only NATO. Since we have “declared neutrality”, we are left with only strong, armed and massive army, the authors of the Draft do not mention the strengthening and popularizing of the armed forces of Serbia. Conclusion remains that good relations with everyone and hope that no one will attack us will stay are only hope.
The unilateral proclamation of the independence of Kosovo and Metohija is stated by the authors as a serious security problem, with a short inventory of problems and injustices, but it does not specify what Serbia will do if it comes to seriously endangering the Serbian population in Kosovo and Metohija and with what.
Separatism reflected in the activities of extremist organizations and interest groups is cited as a problem, but it does not specify which those groups are. Separatism in the south of Serbia and K&M is designated as a serious problem with the abuse of human and minority rights, with which we can agree.
The armed rebellion is also cited as a security threat, but, in our opinion, it is wrong to reduce it solely to an armed rebellion with separatist goals. Possibility of armed groups assisted from abroad, try to change political trends in Serbia in a violent way cannot be ignored, as we saw such a scenario in 2003, and recently we have such attempts taken place in Montenegro and Macedonia.
Other security challenges are listed without further elaboration.
The attempt to forcefully abolish Republika Srpska is not mentioned in the Draft, although Serbia is a guarantor of the Dayton Agreement and the rights the Serbs in B&H acquired through the document. If there is an attempt to abolish the Republika Srpska and attacking the acquired rights of RS and the Serbian people in B&H, Serbia should intervene, but this cannot be seen from the Strategy Draft.
Authors of the Draft Strategy missed a hybrid war as a security challenge, which, according to Serbs is lead through aggressive propaganda in order to influence political and economic trends in the Republic of Serbia. The fact worries that the aggressive propaganda we watch every day from the front pages of the tabloids has not been noticed by the authors of the Draft as a security threat for Serbia and a direct attempt to violate its sovereignty.
Defense interests are well formulated. The position that defense interests derive from national interests is logical and in line with the national values defined in the National Security Strategy Draft. Protection of sovereignty, independence of the territorial integrity; protection of the state security and its citizens; preservation of peace and security in the region and the world; improving national security and defense through the process of European integration; military neutrality and cooperation and partnership with the states and international organizations in the field of security and defense are logically placed defense interests.
Military neutrality is defined as a defense interest that emerged from national values and interests and the international position of the Republic of Serbia, which is very pretentious. Military neutrality, whose only content is the position not join NATO is a political decision that has as a consequence complication of the international position of Serbia and does not arise from it, and especially from national values and interests.
The goals of the defense policy are set up logically and in line with higher strategic documents. There remains an open question of the law on the basis of which the defense policy will be implemented, as we mentioned in the introductory part of this analysis.
As one of the goals of the defense policy in order to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity, is stated deterrence, which is non-existent when it comes to armed aggression as a security threat. Deterrence from armed aggression will be implemented through increasing capacity and capabilities of the Serbian Armed Forces, which is the only way to increase the resilience of the defense system. In addition to increasing the capacity of the Serbian Armed Forces increase in the level of resilience is also contributed by the increase in the capacity of civil defense. Development of the defense system will be based on the needs and capabilities of the Republic of Serbia, which puts in doubt the possibility of raising the capacity of the defense system to sufficiently ensure deterrence. Defense system options with the existing budget are very limited and dimensioned like we are part of the Euro-Atlantic community, which is not the case, and is obviously not the tendency of our foreign and defense policy.
Of particular interest is the position set out in the third paragraph on page 14: “Special attention will be paid to conducting continuous and comprehensive preparations for military defense, as well as improvement of coordination of all entities of the defense system. Developing and applying the concept of total defense conditions will be created for the integral and timely engagement of all entities of the defense system”.
Total defense, as well as military neutrality, is a term that has its content recognizable in a comparative practice of different countries in different historical periods. There is no doubt that the political decision to remain outside NATO, with a strategic partnership with the Russian Federation, in its current state of international relations, requires reformulation of our defense concept. Total defense is the only solution for a state of our size that lies in a hostile environment without allies.
Countries in our environment can develop small professional armies, with relatively low defense costs, given that they are members of NATO, or will become soon. NATO membership enables each country to implement the concept of smart defense, with the specialization of their military and “sharing security risks”. Serbia consciously renounced this so that we consider that total defense remains the only concept that can provide us with enough deterrence. Elaboration of the concept of total defense must necessarily include the popularization of the armed forces, general training of the population for the conduct of an armed fight, the formation of another component of the armed forces along with the multiple increase in defense allocation. In the development of the concept of total defense we can look at three models: Swiss, Israeli, or ONO (total national / people’s defense) model, as we had in the time of SFRY. We consider that the former system of national defense is the most suitable for our society because we have experience with this kind of defense organization. The total defense relies on every strength of one society, and the main bearer of armed and unarmed confrontation are the citizens. The preparation of citizens for the civil defense cannot be effectively implemented without introducing a compulsory subject into the school system through which the youth would be trained for the obligations it has towards the defense of the country.
The consistent implementation of a total defense system would increase Serbia’s deterrence capacity and the decision to jeopardize the survival of the Republika Srpska or the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija, would have made it difficult for the eventual aggressor. However, a serious disruption of relations between the USA and the EU on one side and Russia on the other would make Serbia’s current position difficult to sustain, especially if one takes into account Russia’s aspirations to destabilize Balkan countries and the EU by relying on Serbia. Serbia would find itself in the “line of fire” in that situation, surrounded by NATO members, without much chance to defend itself.
Establishing trust through bilateral cooperation is a good instrument of peace policy, but it does not provide lasting security guarantees to the state that is located outside NATO, and develops friendly relations with Russia, which is in conflict with the leading EU states and the USA.
Protecting the safety of citizens through effective control of the state border; protection and rescue in peace, state of emergency and war; cyber security, critical infrastructure protection and protection and rescue, is very important, but it is exclusively or primarily police jobs, so it is not clear why these activities have been found in the Defense Strategy Draft.
Improving national security and defense through the process of European integration has been described as the goal pursued by strengthening cooperative security with the EU; Participation of the Republic of Serbia in activities of CSDP and improvement of scientific and military-economic cooperation with the EU. From these formulated goals, it is difficult to conclude that Serbia is a candidate for EU membership. It still remains unclear how cooperative security and military neutrality are together when they are mutually excluded.
Military neutrality, as a defensive interest, is particularly controversial because such neutrality is not the practice of international relations. Neutrality cannot be an interest, it is an international status acquired through the decision of its own state bodies and the recognition of neutrality by the interested states and international organizations. Such neutrality, as an interest, is achieved by reaching the following objectives: non-accession to military-political alliances; integral engagement of defense subjects and defense potentials and creating conditions for defense based on its own strengths and potentials. Such a provision is formally and logically controversial, because it is impossible to negatively define the goals. Attitudes can be defined negatively, not goals. Failure to enter into military-political alliances is an attitude rather than a goal, entering can be the goal. Further in the text is stated that Serbia intends to cooperate with NATO through the Partnership for Peace Program and that it wants to cooperate with the CSTO and the member states of that organization, with the desire that the disputes in the world are resolved peacefully! Such sentences belong to the pamphlets of the naïve pacifist organizations rather than the text of the Defense Strategy of a serious state. Defense by support on its own strength is also a list of nice wishes, without a clear definition of what forces, how much it costs, who will finance it, how many soldiers we need to implement a policy of military neutrality, which is based on total defense. Will development of patriotism and “willingness” to participate in defense of the country will be sufficient to keep the level of defense capability not at the “required” but on sufficient level to ensure deterrence and response to aggression in each of the scenarios that have to be foreseen. Developing possible scenarios of aggression against Serbia can give us an answer on how many soldiers we need, what kind of weaponry we need, how much defense expenditures must be and whether this international position of Serbia is sustainable in the long run.
The following stated defense interest is the cooperation and partnership with the states and the international defense organizations. After defending on its own strength and protecting neutrality by all legal and other means, the authors of the Draft explain the cooperation with the international organizations and other countries as an interest, which brings additional confusion into this very confusing document. Cooperation with both NATO and the CSTO is re-entered, only now are added non-aligned! We pay special attention to cooperation with traditionally friendly and partner countries, without specifying which countries.
Strategic concept of the defense
The strategic concept of defense once again emphasizes that the defense of Serbia is based on a model of total defense, supported by its own strengths. Defense consists of military and civilian, which is model known to all modern countries. However, even in this part of the text there is no mention which capacities will Serbia use to implement the concept of total defense, whether it will be returning military service or not, military reserve forces we must develop and similar.
The Strategy Draft simplifies the defense system by cutting it exclusively on the institutional part, ignoring the normative and action part of the system. The institutional part of the system is correctly described, as well as principles of functioning of the defense system.
Implementation of the Defense Strategy
Authors of the Strategy Draft clearly defined the competences and responsibilities for the implementation of this Strategy.
The document in front of us does not meet the basic conditions for it to be adopted as a Defense Strategy. The Strategy Draft was entered into the procedure after amendments were made to the Law from the defense areas that should come from the Defense Strategy that is adopted in time directly after them. This fact alone is enough to disqualify this document.
The text of the document is very confusing, the defense is shifted from relying to own strength with a cooperative concept of security, military neutrality is emphasized with simultaneous EU membership and Partnership for peace Program and cooperation with CSTO, even the Non-Aligned Movement. The Draft authors define themselves for the concept of total defense, without specifying how this concept would be implemented in practice. The authors of Strategy are trying to avoid the determination of any politically sensitive topic such as:
Do you really want to become members of the European Union? There is no clear definition of this text. The attitude that we want to be in the EU should be materialized through the aspiration for inclusion in the CSDP, and not cooperation and treatment of the EU as an organization with which we have to cooperate, but reluctantly, while the situation in the world does not change.
What do you really mean by military neutrality? Is it just another name for secret associations with Russia and a negative attitude towards NATO, which you do not have the courage to make public. What do you mean by total defense? Does this mean the return of the military service and how long it will last, does it mean the formation of serious military reserve forces and what obligations the citizens will have in connection to that. Will the subject be returned to school, which will enable the youth to defend the country? If the answer is positive, the question is how much it will cost and how it will be paid, in which way you think to motivate or force the citizens to fulfill their obligations to the defense of the country. If the answer is negative, the question is how do you think you defend the country?
What is your assessment of the current security situation in the world and the state of international relations, when you believe that it is possible to cooperate with two conflicting sides at the same time, or you think that the conflict of Russia and the West does not exist?
What do you plan to do in case of attempts to violently abolish Republika Srpska and mass violence in northern Kosovo? Are the forces dimensioned for such an intervention?
Have you made possible scenarios of aggression on Serbia, Republika Srpska and Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija and why not?
Only clear answers to these questions can make a serious Defense Strategy. This text is not.