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September 24, 2017

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Cold War casts shadow on UN vote

UNITED NATIONS -- Shadows of the Cold War returned to the U.N. during the recent elections for president of the General Assembly where a previously agreed to candidate from Lithuania was challenged, and subsequently defeated, by a Russian-backed contender from Serbia. What was originally expected to be a consensus vote selecting a respected European Union candidate was snookered by Serbia.

Clearly the United States and many European Union countries were blindsided by the Russian proxy, the perception being how could Serbia, an internationally reviled country with indicted war criminals among its leadership just a dozen years ago, beat Lithuania, a staunch democratic member of the European Union and NATO?

As one of the Baltic states occupied and later absorbed by the former Soviet Union, Lithuania was a victim many times over in WWII, from the Nazis to the communists. Thus its independence and regained sovereignty after the fall of the Soviet regime was all the more cherished. Lithuania joined the U.N. in 1991, a near miracle of regained pre-war sovereignty, and was later admitted into NATO and the European Union, the ultimate insurance policies for the country's defense and her prosperity.

Not all in Moscow accepted this fact. Now with the resurgence of Russian President Vladimir Putin's more pro-active political policies, the Lithuanians, who are neighbors of Russia, would be taught a stinging lesson. This was especially true since Lithuania's candidate, Ambassador Dalius Cekoulis, had been openly critical of former Soviet rule.

Moscow played a deliberate and calculated game of diplomatic chess, whereby Serbia's "moderate" Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic would become a candidate. Though Serbia's reputation and standing is still shadowed internationally by the war crimes such as Srebrenica and the aggression of the Slobodan Milosevic regime in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo, the current, more moderate Serbian government under Boris Tadic has been wisely trying to reintegrate his once reviled country back toward Europe and into becoming a "normal country."

Foreign Minister Jeremic is best known in U.N. circles as Serbia's smooth point man in periodic Security Council proceedings concerning Kosovo's disputed status, the ethnic Albanian former Yugoslav province still claimed by Belgrade.

Yet just weeks before the U.N. election, the Tadic government was toppled in Belgrade and a new hard-line nationalist was elected as Serbian president. Not only did this put Jeremic's standing as foreign minister into question, but revived the radical images of Serbia which would not likely play well internationally.

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