By Wang Wenwen Source: Global Times
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic Photo: AFP
The photo showing Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic sitting in front of US President Donald Trump, who sat behind his desk in the Oval Office, went viral. Vucic, in the words of many netizens, “looked like an employee facing his boss.” On September 4, the Serbian president signed a “historic” economic accord with his counterpart from Kosovo in the White House.
The photo quite demonstrates the US hegemonic style. The current US administration particularly disregards the principle of equality and diplomatic etiquette in international relations. If one wants to have any deal with the US, it must look up to the US as if the world revolves around the US. What “America First” means is that other countries cannot be on equal footing with it, but must prioritize it.
No public joint signatures, official ceremony or handshakes between the two stakeholders, Serbia and Kosovo, which raise doubts on the binding power of this agreement. Apparently, Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to a temporary thaw in relations, despite their deep-rooted enmity and distrust. What is eyebrow-raising is the strange introduction of Israel into their relations.
US selfishness is clear. That majority-Muslim Kosovo agreed to recognize Israel, and Vucic pledging that Serbia would move its representative offices in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem only serve US interests – Trump would find it convenient to tout his diplomatic achievements before the November election and progress in improving Israel’s international status.
With strong preference to Israel, Trump is creating new confrontations in the Middle East and the Balkans. The pact with the auspices of Trump only sows the seeds of trouble to the regions. As Eric Gordy from University College London wrote in Balkan Insight, “The unexpected introduction of Israel into the Serbia-Kosovo dispute puts Kosovo and Palestine on an unnecessary collision course that does neither of them any good.” As a so-called mediator, Trump never brings peace into his mind, nor does he care about regional stability. US diplomacy, more than ever, chases self-interests at the cost of others, which will severely damage the US’ international reputation.
Serbia’s signing of the pact with Kosovo will have further geopolitical implications for Russia, and Russia is probably unhappy about it, prompting Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova to tweet a controversial photo, but later deleted it. Serbia may have found itself in an embarrassing position. In an interview with Pink, a Serbian TV channel, Vucic said he defended relations with China when he was at the White House, and also defended Serbia’s close ties with Russia during his stay in the US.
The photo of Vucic in the White House that went viral also aroused immense discussions among Chinese netizens, who expressed contrasting views as to what message the photo has sent, and whether diplomatic protocol gave way to practical interests. Some showed sympathy, saying it is not easy for small countries situated at geopolitically sensitive areas to face up to a bullying hegemony, while others said small countries should strive to be independent in the face of coercion from powers like the US.
China always maintains that all nations, big or small, should be equal. To us, agreements reached by strong arm tactics will be difficult to hold.