BELGRADE, October 24. /TASS/. Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin has lambasted ‘hostile’ remarks by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Hoyt Brian Yee who said that Belgrade will have to make a choice between Russia and the West.
"Undoubtedly, this is the heaviest public and very undiplomatic pressure on our country and goes against our right to make our own decisions," the minister said in a statement circulated by the TANJUG news agency. "This is not a statement made by a friend or a person respecting Serbia, respecting our right to decide independently. Serbia makes its decisions on its own, without paying attention to the importance of those who believe that they can decide for us."
Hoyt Brian Yee, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, said speaking at the 17th Serbian Economic Summit on Monday that Serbia would have to choose between Russia and the West rather than sit on the fence, if it wants to join the EU. The State Department official cited Croatia and Montenegro as an example and noted that, although the Balkans had gone a long way after the wars of the 1990s, stability and security cannot be taken for granted. In his view, there is a positive trend, but the risk of further conflicts lingers.
His remarks were Washington’s first public criticism of Belgrade’s policy of building good relations with the West, Russia and China. The West earlier exerted pressure on Serbia behind the scenes, saying, according to members of the Serbian Cabinet, that Belgrade should end cultivating ties with Russia, join the anti-Russian sanctions and close the Russian-Serbian humanitarian center in Nis.