While the conflict between Israel and Hamas and Russia and Ukraine rages, political analysts say that the focus of Western powers is diverted from another “burning” geopolitical issue – one that represents a “serious security issue” for both the Balkans and Europe more broadly. The Western Balkans region is assessed as “an arena of geostrategic rivalry, with Moscow, Brussels and Washington among those fighting for influence”, and the solution, they believe, lies in the joint action of the United States (U.S.), the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK), which is currently not the case.
Leon Hartwell, non-resident senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), said the escalation of tensions between Serbia and Kosovo required “heightened vigilance”, although the recent flare-up had largely “passed under the radar of the Western media”.
“The relentless demands on our collective attention, particularly the war between Russia and Ukraine, and now the resurgence of tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian theater, have taken up much of our diplomatic and military latitude,” Hartwell told CNBC.
He warns that, although smoldering, the discord between Serbia and Kosovo has consequently remained in the shadow of these more immediate and “globally resonant challenges”.
Hartwell points to one major challenge for policymakers: paying near-constant attention to ongoing conflicts while still monitoring other strategically important risks.
When a new conflict breaks out on the global stage, he adds, “it inherently strains a nation’s ability to effectively manage pre-existing conflicts.”
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo
“While tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have risen steadily in recent years, a deadly shootout in late September between a heavily armed group of ethnic Serbs and Kosovo Special Police Forces in the northern Kosovo village of Banjska appears to have marked another pivotal moment. That move caused alarm among U.S. and European officials who expressed deep concern about the violence and the “unprecedented” build-up of military forces there, as described by the White House,” reminds CNBC.
Hartwell believes that “the fact is that the Balkan region is a powder keg, where even minor incidents can quickly turn into wider conflicts”.
U.S., EU and UK can make a ‘‘big difference’‘
NATO has had a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo since 1999 following a bloody conflict between ethnic Albanians, who opposed ethnic Serbs, and the Yugoslav government in 1998. The military alliance responded to the recent incident by deploying additional peacekeepers to the region, while Serbia has increased its military presence along its border with Kosovo.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Serbia rejected, and tensions have been present ever since not helped by the election of nationalist leaders in both countries.
Hartwell concludes, the solution lies in the joint action of the Western powers.
“The reality is that the Balkans, although relatively small in size, require a strategic commitment. When the U.S., the EU and the UK work together, they have shown their ability to really make a big difference in the Balkans,” told Hartwell from CEPA.
“However, when we neglect this responsibility or mismanage it as is currently the case, we inadvertently create space for other players to fill the vacuum,” he adds, N1 reports.
Source : Sarajevo Times