On the evening of December 8, 2021, black SUVs began lining up in front of the Meridian House at 1630 Crescent Place, located in an upscale Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington, DC. A historic event celebrating 140 years of US-Serbia relations was about to unfold. H.E. Marko Djuric, the Serbian Ambassador to the United States, looked delighted to meet dignitaries, guests, and friends.
Approximately 200 members of the Diplomatic Corps in Washington DC stood in a receiving line for an official photo line-up. As they stepped into the Louis XVI-style oval room, the Loggia, with a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, guests were handed a glass of chilled champagne.
This glitzy diplomatic soirée of historic relevance, celebrating the legacy of Serbia and the United States, people-to-people ties, and military relationships, was bursting with reception goers snapping pictures of the artwork hanging on the mansion’s walls.
Against the background of Serbian musical classics played by a pianist and specialties from Serbian cuisine, the guests could be heard reflecting on details of Serbia-US relations throughout history. From stories about the bravery of the Serbian families who put their lives on the line during Operation Halyard during World War II, to the contributions of the Serbian Apollo Seven, which helped to land an astronaut on the moon, members of the Diplomatic Corps had plenty to discuss.
As the official ceremony was about to commence, a pre-recorded message from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic was played.
“Our two nations rest on the ideals of freedom and justice,” said Vucic, adding that, despite a short period of complex relations between Serbia and the US in the 90’s, he assured that “Serbia is committed to deepening close ties between our countries in the future.”
The Serbian Ambassador then approached the podium by calling all the attendees at the diplomatic soirée to raise two glasses, the first one for “our ancestors who were able to forge friendship and partnership without modern technologies,” and the second, “to the future in which we can further deepen the relationship between Serbia and the US”
Dereck Hogan, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of European and Euroasian Affairs, addressed the guests by saying that he was proud to be working with Assistant Secretary, Dr. Karen Donfried, the White House, and other interagency forces to “deepen the already close ties between our countries” in the face of global challenges.
Laura Cooper, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, began her speech by saying it was her honor to celebrate 140 years of diplomatic relations between Serbia and the United States. She referred to the long shared history between the two countries dating back to 1881. “I am proud to report that our relations are only growing stronger,” Cooper shared. She went on to express “immense pride” in being a part of “recent efforts to expand our regional cooperation,” and affirmed that the United States seeks to play a positive role in the Western Balkans.
By reflecting on the areas of cooperation between the Serbian Armed Forces and the DOD, specifically the Serbian and U.S. Army paratroopers, Cooper spoke of how the US and Serbian national security interests “converge more than they diverge.”
Cooper said that one month ago today, the U.S. held “high-level bilateral defense consultations in Belgrade, solidifying a five-year plan to expand our cooperation in exercises and training. These were the first official defense consultations in over five years, and the largest senior DOD delegation to visit Belgrade in years.”
Cooper acknowledged her hope for furthering the bilateral cooperation given 15 years of Serbia’s “excellent state partnership with Ohio.” In addition, Cooper emphasized international peacekeeping as one additional area of close and deepening cooperation between Serbia and the US.
“Serbia’s commitment to this global mission for good is noticed and highly appreciated,” said Cooper, toasting “not just to the past 140 years, but to the future.”
As the applause broke through the room, the celebration of 140 years of Serbia-US relations at the Meridian House went on.