And Then She Wrote Him a Letter

We could see the letter sent from Moscow as an intimate message, full of longing and passion. Perhaps we would otherwise be confused that such a personal letter was not sent only to him, but could be viewed by anyone who wanted it. But we could also explain that as a sudden decision of a disappointed mistress who was struck by grief on this first Saturday in September. And then, late in the evening, it disturbed her serenity and then, in a similar way to figures on the old clocks posts suddenly appearing, rudely interrupted her happiness. She added two photos to the message, first one was of him, sitting on a thin chair, and then another, with a woman sitting in a short skirt with crossed legs, which could have been of her. However, it was not her. Although Maria Zakharova, the representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who sent the message, is capable, knowledgeable and also a beautiful woman. The recipient, to whom the message was sent, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, knows her as a participant in meetings with the highest representatives of the Russian Federation. Zakharova wrote to Vučić that, admittedly, they invited him to the White House, but then they put him in a chair as if they were interrogating him inappropriately. That is why he looks, more than the president of the state, like a woman who sits seductively, but not in the most appropriate way. And this is where it all starts.

Marija Zakharova’s letter to Aleksandar Vučić was a warning, a kind of parting kiss, a binding message. Also, the president’s response indicated his anxiety. He replied that, before “throwing the stone”, she should be reminded of the hours when Vučić had to wait quietly and humbly for meetings with Vladimir Putin. The day before Zakharova started writing, on Friday, September 4, 2020, US President Donald Trump received the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo, Avdullah Hoti, and the President of Serbia, Vučić, in order for them to sign before him the agreement on the normalization of economic relations between Serbia and Kosovo, which was prepared by Trump’s personal envoy for the Balkans, Richard Grenell. However, that alone could not be a reason for Moscow’s anger. Especially not because of the protocol strangeness of the meeting that took place outside diplomatic rules.

I personally visited America with Dr. Janez Drnovšek. That is why I know how carefully and precisely it is necessary to harmonize all the protocol and content details of the conversation before the beginning of the meeting with the American president. Of course, not all the details were really predictable. Like on that flight with the German company Lufthansa (we usually shared seats with the president in the back), when one of the flight attendants started seducing his security worker. However, this time it was different, because the guests were systematically placed in the diplomatic shadow. Even then, when they were given a spot next to special tables that seemed even smaller next to the big Trump table. And especially when it was obviously not quite clear which version of the final document they received for signing. Therefore, the cause of the Moscow’s state coldness should not be sought in that place. The agreement signed by Vučić and Hoti was acceptable to both. It is true that, in the end, they withdrew the point about the Serbian recognition of Kosovo from the documents, however, that was somehow reasonable in itself as well. Specifically, when you hold such extensive negotiations, then you determine with your interlocutor that the state you represent actually exists. The pragmatic Grenell, of course, noticed this quickly. The agreement signed in Washington talks about joint projects between Serbia and Kosovo. Also about the construction of the connection of Niš and Priština through a highway, as well as the connection to the existing road with Tirana. On the modernization of the railways to Priština and the Albanian seaport of Durres. The International Development and Finance Corporation (DFC) has accepted the obligation to start preparations for the opening of its office in Belgrade in the coming days and, with financial assistance, for a package of 13 billion dollars, for infrastructure projects. However, the key part of the agreement, which was the cause of Moscow’s anger, is in something else. It is in the part of the agreement that concerns energy. But not in the one where it is provided for that the American Energy Agency will prepare a feasibility study on the distribution of the produced electricity on the artificial lake Gazivode. Part of the agreement which upset Moscow is in a small paragraph that talks about agreement on various energy suppliers, meaning American liquefied gas that would be transported across the Atlantic to the port of Durres and neighbouring Porte Romano, and then through appropriate transport connections to the Serbian and Kosovo markets. I know both ports well, because a few years ago I followed the plans on construction of new oil and gas terminals through which energy-hungry Balkan markets could be supplied. And then it seemed like it wasn’t necessary.

On December 9, 2008, the funeral of Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II was held in Moscow. Serbian President Boris Tadić also attended the event. And the key political parts of the energy agreement between Russia and Serbia were probably determined on that day, after a year of negotiations and change of negotiators. The preparation was complicated by the request that the Russian oil company Gazprom, which wanted to buy a 51% stake in the Serbian oil industry NIS, financially and legally commit that the deal would be directly related to the implementation of Gazprom’s large gas pipeline project, South Stream. That the sale of more than half of the Serbian oil company would be conditioned by the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline through Serbia and the agreement on filling and using the underground gas storage Banatski dvor. Even then, it was clear that this great Russian gas pipeline would never happen. That is why the Russian government insisted that the Serbian oil company NIS be sold without additional obligations. Serbia became energy dependent on Russia. With the new agreement signed in the White House, President Aleksandar Vučić undertook that Serbia will also buy American liquefied gas and other necessary energy sources. Because of that, on Saturday, September 5, 2020, they were very upset in Moscow.

That was the reason for the message that Maria Zakharova wrote to Aleksandar Vučić.

The column was published in the newspaper DELO, on Thursday, September 10, 2020.

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