There are many different methods states can employ for survival. War, alliances, and even maintaining neutrality can all be methods of survival. Serbia as used all of these since its emergence as an independent state in 1878. One of the preferred ways Serbia has survived as a state is war. This was evident in the early 20th century during the Balkan Wars and in the late 20th century in the war with Kosovo.
Alliances are an important part of war especially in instances such as the First World War where Serbia was a key member in the initial cause of fighting. After the war with Kosovo in the 1990s, Serbia began a campaign of neutrality which was a vast difference from the genocidal campaigns Serbia had used in the Kosovo War.
Despite some of these methods being questionable in their outcomes, especially with the First World War causing Serbia to become a part of Yugoslavia, Serbia has reemerged as an independent state. In 1912 Serbia was still relatively fresh out of their independence from the Ottoman empire, and still had a great deal of ethnic Serbians outside of their borders. As the goal of many states in the Balkans, they wished to have all their nationality under one flag. The Balkan wars were a way to achieve this. Serbia “more than doubled her territory, and largely increased her population, it was with alien peoples” (Duggan 42)
This was achieved through the Greco-Serbian Treaty shortly after the Treaty of London that concluded the First Balkan War. Greece would agree to the Serbian annexations if Greece would get the port city of Salonika. Bulgaria was against the Serbia and Greece’s joint annexation of Macedonian land because this went against the Serbo-Bulgarian Pact of 1912, which agreed on the spoils of a war with Turkey before the war even started.
Serbian Macedonia was home to ethnic Bulgarians that were now being forced out of their homes for Serbians to populate, which of course caused additional conflict with Bulgaria. The Second Balkan war was over Macedonia. In the Treaty of Bucharest that concluded the it, Serbia received the majority of Macedonia to Bulgaria’s distain. This resulted in Bulgaria’s increased hatred of Serbian and eventually in Bulgaria siding with the Central Powers in the First World War because they were the alliance that would be their best bet in regaining Macedonia.
Serbia’s interest in the Macedonia not only stems from the desire to have all ethnic Serbians under one government but also because the region is rich, which is important for a state’s survival, especially in war. Another way Serbia has survived, especially in war is through alliances. Serbia’s agreement with Greece also improved their relations to a point where Greece allowed Serbia to use the port of Saloniki. This access to the sea was import during World War One because without it there would have been no way for Serbia to gain military supplies.
Another important alliance for Serbia in World War One was with Russia. Russia has long been a protector of the Balkan states. Without Russia to back Serbia up following the events of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, Serbia would have gone on to face two superpowers- Germany and Austro-Hungary alone. Serbia would likely have not survived as a country or at least been greatly reduced in power. However, Russia’s involvement in the conflict is what essentially caused the war to spread beyond a regional conflict.
After World War I, Serbia became a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, which later became Yugoslavia. In the late 20th century, Serbia again instituted force to ensure their survival. Kosovo is a region that was part of Serbia following the disbandment of Yugoslavia. The region is home to both ethnic Albanians and Serbians, so both people feel as though the region belongs to them. Albania gaining its independence in 19__ caused stirrings in Kosovo of as similar sentiment. No state wants to lose a region but Serbia’s goal as country is to be a state for all ethnic Serbians, so Kosovo was even more important to them. So, Serbia attempted to rid Kosovo of Kosovar Albanians.
This resulted in the death of thousands and over 200,000 being forced to relocate out of the region. (46) The genocidal aspects of this purging caused NATO to act by bombing Belgrade starting in March of 1999. The bombings and further Serbian campaigns to rid the region of Albanians resulted in the displacement of over a million. Serbia’s actions of cleansing the region of Kosovar Albanians resulted in a loss of the reputability as a state as well as no gaining much since the Albanians were returned to their homes and Kosovo declared independence in 2008.
While Serbia does not recognize this to this day, most EU counties and the United States do. Essentially in terms of survival as a state it would likely have been best for Serbia to allow Kosovo to gain its independence rather than going to war and committing genocide. After the Kosovo War and the subsequent bombing that Belgrade suffered from NATO, the country as sought a neutral position. They are a Partnership for Peace member with NATO and applied for membership to the EU in 2009 (Eckardt and Banic) while also maintaining close ties with Russia.
Russia has supported Serbia economically, such as aiding with the renovation of the hydro-electric plant that is Serbia’s main source of electricity. (Bardos 20) Russia is also Serbia’s main supplier of oil and gas, while the EU is “Serbia’s largest trading partner and investor” (Eckardt and Banic) Serbia seeks to get the best of both worlds but their relationship with Russia is preventing them from becoming a member of the EU. Serbia is “in many ways the most strategically important country in the [Balkans]” (Bardos 24). This means that if Serbia decides between the EU and Russia it could again split the region.
So, Serbia remaining neutral is beneficial to their own survival because it allows them resources from both allies and because splitting the region could cause a conflict that could risk Serbia’s safety. Alienating one of their allies could also hurt the economically due to trade relationships and economic support that they provide. Serbia may have been a part of Yugoslavia for a significant portion of time between the 20th and 21st century but it has survived, along with mostly achieving its goal of having all ethnic Serbs under one state. War was possibly one of the most influential aspects of this survival and alliances being a large part of that. Currently, however, Serbia’s policy of neutrality is important to the continued stability of not only Serbia but the Balkan region as well.