Author | Editor: Kuznar, E. (NSI, Inc.)
Three datasets on wealth and status distribution in Serbia were analyzed: Serbian state data on monthly income by occupation for 2018, and International Labor Organization (ILO) data on income by occupation for the years 2016 and 2014.
Serbia’s population is highly risk acceptant. Occupations that earn higher incomes are more to take risks due to the high reward of maintaining or increasing their socioeconomic status within Serbian society (Imas, 2016). The risk acceptance of the wealthier and poorer classes is exacerbated by political pressure from major international powers, internal economic issues, and social cleavages that refuse to allow old prejudices and conflicts to die. These long-lasting cleavages have the potential to incur violent outbursts and see a devolution back into a state of civil war (UNPD, 2018; CRS report, 2018).
Significance for Risk Taking and Stability
Serbia has the potential to control the flow of displaced refugees into Europe. Furthermore, it has strong cultural and geopolitical connections to Russia. For these reasons, the United States, Western Europe, China, and Russia all take special interest in Serbian stability. The great powers attempt to influence Serbia using humanitarian aid, infrastructure investments, and more covert means through media and propaganda (CRS report, 2018; Le Corre & Vuksanovic, 2019; Nalaeva, 2016). Low economic achievement and a precarious relationship with the self-proclaimed independent state of Kosovo has only aggravated ethnic and societal tensions in recent years, causing a rising fear that Serbian society may devolve back into the violence it experienced in the 1990s (CRS, 2018). This scenario would place Serbian civilians in a position where they must take extreme risks amid sinking Serbian stability, and the data analyzed in this study indicate that they may very well be in a risk acceptant decision frame.
Implications for US Interests
The United States has an increased interest in Serbia, which has grown from a socialist state and perpetrator of genocide to a democratic government and potential EU member state (CRS, 2018). However, ethnic tensions still lie under the surface of Serbian society and contribute to social discrimination and an ongoing socioeconomic crisis (UNPD, 2018). The United States’ main interests are in supporting its allies in the EU and NATO as they seek to counter Russian influence by creating a stable and politically democratic Balkan region (CRS, 2018). To meet this goal, the United States has given millions of dollars in financial and humanitarian aid to Serbia. Serbia’s risk acceptant population poses a risk to the US’ interests should economically frustrated ethnic Serbs turn their frustrations toward minorities and destabilize the country.
Implications for China’s Interests
China has fewer immediate interests in Serbia than Russia and Western European countries. Instead its interests lie in potential future economic and political aspirations for China, both in the Balkans and beyond into central Europe (Le Corre & Vuksanovic, 2019). Several Chinese infrastructure projects, which include the high-speed railway from Belgrade to Budapest and two separate construction projects on Serbia’s corridor 11 highway, rely upon future Serbian social stability (Dimitrijević, 2017). Serbia has been incredibly receptive of China’s infrastructure projects going as far as to suggest China open a joint infrastructure office with Budapest. Since its business sector has been receptive of economic overtures from Beijing, Serbia’s risk acceptant population gives the leadership in China an opportunity if it is able to break ground on its Belt and Road initiative, providing more economic opportunities for the Serbian population.
Implications for Russia’s Interests
Russian interests in Serbia are based upon its ethnic and cultural ties to Slavic nations that follow Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Russia considers itself a protector of Serbia and other Balkan States due to these cultural connections (CRS, 2018). Russia views the EU and NATO’s interaction within Serbia as a direct affront to its sovereign rights, and its ability to interact economically and politically within Eastern Europe. While Russia’s interests in Serbia remain mostly political, it has used economic and media tools (such as Serbia’s reliance on Russian energy, and Russia’s posturing as a pan-Slavic Orthodox Christian defender), to counteract the United States’ and Western Europe’s interaction in the country (Bugajski, 2018). Serbia’s risk acceptant population is both a risk and an opportunity for Russia. This is due to its population’s ability to sway the direction of Serbia’s government that could either align itself with the EU and NATO or Russia in the future based off of perceived potential gains.