In the years after the Great War, a saying appeared in Serbia: “Lord save us from friends – we’ll handle the enemies ourselves.”
During the tumultuous latter half of the XIX century and the struggle over the “Eastern Question”, the Western powers have mostly regarded Serbia as “part of the problem” and a “factor of disruption” of their geopolitical interests. Their views of the “Serbian problem” have been articulated long before, during the First Serbian Uprising (1804-1813), by the famous French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand; he told the Ottoman ambassador to Paris that “it cannot be allowed that such a large population establish a state of its own in such a strategic location, taken from the Sultan by force.”
Maintaining the Ottoman presence in the Balkans at all costs thus became one of the major objectives of British diplomacy and a key element of the Great Game against the Russian Empire. Any national states of the Balkan Orthodox peoples would be potential allies of Russia, giving it access to the “warm seas” and a strategic stranglehold of the Bosporus, thus strengthening Russia’s sea-power dimension. Therefore, Great Britain organized endeavors in three directions:
- First, constant pressure and continued efforts to influence political and social elites of the Balkans nations; thus today one can hear in both Sofia and Belgrade that “the people look to Moscow, but the governments look to London.”
- Second, in the UK itself encouraged the growth of Orientalism as both a cultural movement and a political orientation, championed by many reputable politicians and public figures. Its message was that the Orient was the key to safeguarding British interests;
- Third, various diplomatic initiatives and political instruments were employed to prevent the creation of stable Balkan states in which the Orthodox nations would round out their ethnic boundaries. It was British diplomacy that backed the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the  Congress of Berlin, as well as the League of Prizren and the project of creating an Albanian nation-state. According to the Russian consul Ivan Yastrebov, the manifesto of the Albanians’ League was actually written at the office of his British colleague in Prizren.
It made perfect sense for London to make deals with Vienna and support Austria-Hungary’s belligerence in the Balkans, as that put the Hapsburg monarchy on a permanent collision course with Russia. Historian Milorad Ekmečić (Милорад Екмечић) recently presented the finding that the Albanian flag was actually designed at one Viennese fashion shop in 1912, and that this project was funded by Ludwig von Tallóczy. The Hapsburg monarchy took over where Britain left off, becoming the instrument of geopolitical containment of Russia in the Balkans.
The involvement of Germany, whose political ambitions grew apace with its economy, disrupted the British calculations in the region. So long as the German geopolitical priorities stayed within the upper reaches of the Danube, Poland, Belarus, the Ukraine and the Baltics – thus confronting Berlin with Russia – they served the British agenda perfectly fine. Germany became the enemy in Anglo-Saxon geopolitics only from the moment it began to show interest in the Middle East and the Balkans. The British considered German attempts to build the strategic “Berlin-Baghdad” railway and create a foothold in the Bosporus to be equally threatening as the potential Russian access to the “warm waters.” As a reminder, the “Baghdad Railroad” would have also created a strategic link to then-remote German colonies in East Africa (present-day Rwanda, Burundi and mainland Tanzania).
All this should inform our analysis of the support that Serbia received on the eve of the Great War from its new-found “friends” Britain and France. In their plans, Serbia was to be the obstacle to German designs in the Balkans. Austria-Hungary was merely a proxy, a trigger for the ensuing Great War.
After the war, there was no longer any interest to back Serbia. Quite the contrary, the official London insisted on wide-ranging autonomy for Croats and Slovenes in the new state, which ensured Yugoslavia would be unstable from the start. The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was a purely geopolitical construct, intended to serve Anglo-Saxon interests in Eastern Europe, abusing the growing Yugoslav sentiments.
Serbian PM Nikola Pašić saw through this ploy in time, but his attempts to “mark the boundaries of Serbia” were systematically thwarted – partly by the greedy and influenced Serbian political elites, and partly because after 1918, Serbia could no longer rely on Russian support. Thanks to “friends” form the West and their plans – eagerly embraced by the Serbian elites – what the Serbs won in wartime (at great cost) against a far stronger military enemy, they managed to lose in peacetime to the far weaker political enemies. […]
Has anything changed a century later? As far as Anglo-Saxon geopolitical objectives, no. Only the balance of power on the “Eastern European geopolitical chessboard” has changed, shifting the main battlefield from the Balkans to the Ukraine. A great media and economic war against Russia is underway. The Balkans has been left in the rear, in an area controlled by the Anglo-Saxon power centers. Now we are witnessing attempts to drown Serbia in a new kind of Yugoslav entity, established under the tutelage of the EU. Parallel to the constant attack along the Russian frontier, the West is working to dismantle all the potential Russian allies in Eastern Europe.
All this is being done by our “friends” from the European Union and NATO, in the spirit of “traditional friendship” and “benevolent policy”. Diligently following the conclusions of A.T. Mahan, Halford Mackinder and Nicholas J. Spykman, they continue their efforts to encircle and contain the geopolitical Heartland, because “Who controls the Heartland controls Eurasia, and who controls Eurasia runs the world.”
They thought so in 1914. they think so today. Circumstances change, but the political objectives remain the same.
The following paper by Dušan Proroković (Душан Пророковић) was presented at the international conference “The Great War and the new world: contemporary lessons for humanity”, held in Belgrade on September 17-18, 2014. The Serbian original was published by the Strategic Culture Foundation on September 26.
Source Reiss Institute
thank you for the english traduction of this article. Mr Prorokovic is one of the leading geopolitical analysts in Serbia and his views are worth of interest.