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Experts: West must change its policy in the Western Balkans

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Kosovo’s purchase of the American-made “Javelin” missile system was seen as one of the few positive developments for the Western Balkans during a debate organized in Washington by the “New Line” Institute on the next decade in the region.

Balkan affairs expert and writer Jasmin Mujanović said the decision to strengthen Kosovo’s defense had a positive impact on the entire region.

“A strong, stable and sovereign Kosovo, with the power of deterrence and not dependent on KFOR but part of the Kosovo security forces, is very positive for the entire Western Balkans,” Mujanović said.

He mentioned another positive development over the past two to three years, including an increase in formal and informal contacts between officials and the diaspora of the three Balkan countries: Kosovo, Bosnia and Montenegro. Referring to past mistakes, such as when Albanian students in Kosovo were “brutalized by Yugoslav security forces” during protests in 1981, and Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia failed to react, Mujanović stressed that such mistakes should not be repeated.

“As we learned in the 90s and as we should learn again, what begins in Kosovo ends in Bosnia, and what begins in Bosnia ends in Montenegro, because the problems are interconnected. When Aleksandar Vulin or Vučić talk about the Serbian world, we should not expect a reaction only from our friends in Pristina; we all have to react, because it is a threat to everyone,” said Mujanović.

According to analyst Mujanović and Tanya Domi, professor of human rights in the Balkans at Columbia University, the lack of Western engagement in the region, and in particular the misguided policies with pro-nationalists Russian and pro-Chinese forces in the Balkans, mainly in Serbia and Bosnia’s Republika Srpska, endanger the security of the region and the credibility of Western foreign policy.

“The problem we face is the weakness of the foreign policy of the United States and, moreover, that of the EU. I would say, and I know some people disagree with this, that this seems to soften positions towards certain countries. worst nationalist impulses and is contrary to the values ​​of the United States,” said Professor Domi.

The Russians have set up a large reconnaissance center on the outskirts of the Serbian town of Niš, very close to the border with Kosovo, analyst Jasmin Mujanović said, even though Kosovo is the one facing Western measures.

On June 28, the European Union informed Pristina of punitive measures, with Brussels saying that Kosovo authorities had failed to take necessary measures to reduce tensions in northern Kosovo.

A few months later, as Professor Tanya Domi points out, in the village of Banjska, in the north of Kosovo, a group of armed Serbs crossed the Serbian border and carried out an attack considered by Westerners as a terrorist act. Pristina accused Belgrade of being behind the attack, an accusation Serbia denies.

“I think there is a growing disappointment with the behavior of the Serbian government,” British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in a briefing to members of the British parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee on January 9. The briefing followed Cameron’s visit to Kosovo a week earlier.

Cameron added that while he could not speak for Brussels or Washington, “I feel that even within the EU and the US there is disappointment with Serbia because that they understand that Banjska’s case represents a significant risk.”

For analyst Jasmin Mujanović, British Foreign Minister Cameron’s comments in London are entirely correct, as Western policy towards the Balkans has been at a standstill since the period before Russian aggression in Ukraine.

“David Cameron recognized that despite everything the West is doing with Russian aggression in Ukraine, even in the face of our adversaries in Beijing over Taiwan, they are doing the opposite in the Balkans,” Mujanović said.

For Professor Tanya Domi, “the State Department and the White House currently have different priorities.” According to her, even President Biden, considered to have good knowledge of the Balkans, is burdened by the question of the elections in the United States, and “they do not see the Balkans with attention until they are forced to do something. And if they have to do something, it will be too late. This is my biggest concern and my biggest fear.

Harun Karčić, executive producer of the Al Jazeera Balkans television channel, broadcast from Sarajevo, said during the debate that “there is no possibility that (Serbian President) Vučić was not informed in advance of the Banjska affair”.

During the debate, it was mentioned that Serbia had spent “extraordinary sums” lobbying the United States through official and unofficial channels over the past four years, exploiting the significant divisions that currently exist in the American foreign policy.

“Very concretely, Serbia is trying to influence the future direction of a possible new Republican administration,” said analyst Jasmin Mujanović.

“I think they have identified very clearly some names that they would like to see in high positions. I don’t think it’s a secret. For example, you know, Serbia would very much like to see Richard Grenell as future secretary of state. For the United States, this is a national security issue as a foreign government attempts to influence appointments in future U.S. administrations.”

For Mujanović, it is surprising that this is not causing concern in the United States, as Serbia’s efforts with Grenell are becoming more publicly known.

“When you travel to Belgrade and receive state honors from a person who is a close associate of Vladimir Putin, who is a close associate of Xi Jinping, and you participate in serious discussions about becoming a very senior U.S. official in the incoming administration, this issue should be alarming,” he said.

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