“Public complaints about current American policy in the Balkans are rife. No one in the State Department is listening. There are, however, lots of government officials at State who are uncomfortable with the blindness towards Serbia‘s misdeeds and America‘s Kosovo-bashing. It is time for them to get together to submit a dissent channel message that tells Secretary Blinken what he needs to know. His Balkan leadership is making serious mistakes. He should order a speedy re-evaluation and course correction”.
By Daniel Serwer,
Washington, 12 June 2023, dtt-net.com / peacefare.net – Chris Hill, America’s Ambassador to Serbia, gave an interview last week to VOA:
What’s wrong with this picture
Here we have an American ambassador to one country casting aspersions on the Prime Minister of a neighboring country. That alone makes me recoil. It is not only unprofessional. It also makes the job of his colleague in Pristina harder. The last time American officials trashed Prime Minister Kurti and even organized his fall from power, he returned after elections with a renewed mandate and an enlarged majority. He has hinted recently he might call a snap election, presumably hoping thereby to show the Americans that he has the unequivocal support of most of Kosovo.
Hill also praises the President of Serbia, the country to which he is accredited, even though Vucic has mobilized troops and sent them to the Kosovo border. There they confronted NATO-led forces, including Americans, who are responsible for Kosovo’s external defense. This is a clear violation of the February normalization agreement between Belgrade and Pristina that the Americans say is legally binding. It prohibits the threat or use of force (Article 3).
Instead of denouncing this violation, Hill mentions that Kosovo Serbs have been playing friendly games with the NATO forces. That’s not surprising. Kosovo Serbs know that NATO today protects them as well as the Albanians south of the Ibar River. It was primarily Serb gangs President Vucic sent from Belgrade who did the dirty work of attacking NATO soldiers. About that, Ambassador Hill says nothing.
Let’s see if Vucic buys
He presses however for the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities inside Kosovo. This proposition was agreed in 2013. The quid pro quo was extension of the rule of law under its constitution to the entire territory of Kosovo. Belgrade, however, has not allowed that extension. It has resisted Pristina’s efforts to get Serbs in northern Kosovo use Kosovo license plates, withdrawn officials from Kosovo institutions in the north, supported and enforced the Serb boycott of elections in northern Kosovo, and maintained clandestine Serbian security forces there, who cooperate with the rioters sent from Belgrade. Not everyone sympathetic to Serb complaints is as blind as the Ambassador to what is going on in the north.
Under current conditions, there is little doubt that creation of the ASMM would formalize Belgrade’s control over northern Kosovo. Nevertheless, I think Pristina should put forward its own proposition for the ASMM. Prime Minister Kurti has mentioned the Serb National Council in Croatia as a possible model. He should spell out that or his own proposition in a written proposal fully consistent with the Kosovo constitution, as the Americans have guaranteed any ASMM has to be. Let’s see if the good Vucic buys. Even if he does, the American guarantee should be in writing with a commitment to monitor implementation on a regular basis.
Public complaints about current American policy in the Balkans are rife. No one in the State Department is listening. There are, however, lots of government officials at State who are uncomfortable with the blindness towards Serbia’s misdeeds and America’s Kosovo-bashing. It is time for them to get together to submit a dissent channel message that tells Secretary Blinken what he needs to know. His Balkan leadership is making serious mistakes. He should order a speedy re-evaluation and course correction.
PS: Even for the State Department, Hill’s comments about Kurti were too much. So Gabe Escobar had to correct them, I think yesterday:
I’m not sure why it is Gabe Escobar who is eating crow.
Daniel Serwer is a Professor of the Practice of Conflict Management as well as director of the Conflict Management and American Foreign Policy Programs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. This opinion was first published at his peacefare.net website.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of dtt-net.com .