A conflict in the Balkans would spark universal dissatisfaction with Brussels’ policies, said the board chairman of the Foundation for Support and Development of the Valdai Discussion Club Andrey Bystritsky
A war in the Balkans, should it break out, will not play into the hands of either the United States or the European Union, but the Western countries are using the escalation of tensions between Serbia and Kosovo for manipulating Pristina and Belgrade in their interests, the board chairman of the Foundation for Support and Development of the Valdai Discussion Club, Andrey Bystritsky, told TASS on Monday.
“Neither the United States nor Western Europe needs a war in the Balkans. Firstly, because it would create a trouble spot of instability very close to the centers of European politics. Secondly, it would be a great challenge to the entire European security system and show, among other things, that the security situation within the borders of the European Union is rather controversial,” the analyst said.
A conflict in the Balkans, Bystritsky believes, would spark universal dissatisfaction with Brussels’ policies, including soaring tensions in European society over the geographical proximity of a source of instability. He believes that the Western approach smacks of attempts to manipulate with both Belgrade and Pristina.
“In the political scene Serbia behaves differently than other Western countries,” he explained. “The escalation of tensions on the border between Kosovo and Serbia gives the United States a chance to both threaten and encourage Belgrade. In the new political situation emerging around Serbia it is possible to talk, to make decisions and to offer something. For example, the Kosovar Albanians have postponed their decision till September 1. This is some kind of a concession, for which Serbia is to be grateful. There is room for a political game here.”
Bystritsky stressed that “Kosovo’s authorities are heavily dependent on the US and Western Europe. They do not have a free hand and can be used as a tool to influence neighboring countries.”
At the same time, the expert speculated that the current developments may result in a sharp aggravation in the future. “This will not necessarily mean immediate military action, but the risk of hostilities will grow significantly. They can happen, because a huge number of people on both sides of the border will be faced with great problems,” expert noted. “Most likely, there will be brokered negotiations via go-betweens, tasked with looking for a compromise and finding some solution.”
New spiral of tensions
On Sunday evening, the situation in Kosovo and Metohija worsened sharply after the police of the unrecognized entity closed the checkpoint on the administrative line with Serbia. In response, Serbs in the northern part of Kosovo took to the streets to demonstrate and block the main roads. Sirens were heard in a number of cities in the north of the region. Police and personnel of the international security force in Kosovo KFOR, operating under the auspices of NATO, were moved to the bridge across the Ibar River, which connects the north and south of Kosovska-Mitrovica.
As a result of international efforts Pristina postponed the procedure of enforcing the ban on Serbian documents till 1 September.
Pristina’s previous attempt to ban vehicles with Serbian license plates from entering the territory resulted in a serious escalation of the conflict. On September 20, 2021, hundreds of Kosovo police officers, including snipers, occupied the Jarinje and Brnjak checkpoints. Kosovar Albanians began to forcibly remove license plates from Serbian cars, replacing them with Kosovo’s plates and charging a “fee” of 5 euros. In response, Serbs blocked the checkpoints and staged mass protests. Ten days later, Belgrade and Pristina reached an agreement to de-escalate tensions in northern Kosovo and agreed to set up a working group to deal with the long-term problem of license plates on vehicles belonging to the residents of this predominantly Serb region.
However, Pristina blocks any negotiations with Belgrade. This time it has refused to discuss the issue in question, too. Moreover, on June 29, 2022, the Albin Kurti-led Cabinet adopted two acts, which this time concerned not only license plates, but also Serbs’ personal documents issued by Belgrade. In early July, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic warned that Pristina’s initiative might entail dire consequences. He urged the international community to get involved in resolving the issue, but his call fell on the deaf ears of the Kosovar Albanians’ Western patrons.