Another Round of Escalation in the Northen Kosovo – Comment
The original article was published on the New Geopolitics Research Network. Any reprints of the article only with the author’s and NGRN’s permission.
On September 24, an Albanian policeman who served in the Kosovo police was killed in the village of Banska in the north of Kosovo. In response to the death of a policeman, Pristina conducted an anti-terrorist operation in the village and arrested several dozen armed people. They were hiding in a local monastery, where they occasionally opened fire on the Kosovo police, who surrounded the shrine.
During these firefights, Kosovo police officers shot three terrorists dead and detained several more. At the end of the day, other armed terrorists surrendered to the Kosovo police.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti blamed Belgrade for escalating tensions, claiming that Serbia prepared and implemented this operation.
Only on Sunday evening, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic addressed the public, promising to take measures to protect the civilian Serbian population in northern Kosovo.
Vucic’s statements included accusations against Kurti of ethnic cleansing of Serbs in the north of Kosovo and illegal attacks by the Kosovo police on armed men in the village of Banska.
Last week, Serbia was relocating its troops to the administrative border with Kosovo.
The Balkan media reported that the Serbian military moved to the border with Kosovo from three directions – from Raska (units of the 2nd Brigade of the Serbian Army – northern direction), from Nis (units of the 3rd Brigade –northeastern direction), and from Vranje (units of the 4th brigade – eastern direction).
At the time, Pristina claimed that the Serbian army had deployed 48 forward operating bases along the administrative border with Kosovo and deployed heavy artillery and air defense.
Separate statements were made by representatives of Germany, KFOR, and the UN, who called on the parties to return to negotiations.
The reaction of the EU and the USA was quite weak and came to the usual calls to Belgrade to withdraw troops as their deployment close to the border with Kosovo is causeing destabilization. American and European politicians and diplomats did not make any special statements.
However, they decided to slightly strengthen the “soft” approach by NATO peacekeepers. On October 1, the British Ministry of Defense announced that it had decided to send an additional 200 British peacekeepers to Kosovo. This was in response to a special request by Christopher Cavoli, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, to the British authorities to strengthen the British contingent in Kosovo and increase the number of peacekeepers.
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment will be deployed to Kosovo, joining the 400 British peacekeepers already stationed there as part of the annual training.
On October 1, the Serbian president announced that he would present evidence within 24 hours that Serbs were being ethnically cleansed in northern Kosovo. He and his entourage called on the international forces – KFOR and the EU EULEX mission – to be unbiased when studying the situation in the village of Banska.
Relations between Kosovo and Serbia have so far escalated to such an extent that periods of relative calm are becoming shorter, and escalations are becoming more violent. Such a trend, most likely, will be observed in the future as the representatives of the EU and the USA are not able to drastically change the rhetoric regarding the dialogue on normalization. First of all, it refers to recognizing the failure of this type of diplomacy and ceasing to blame only Kosovo for the tense situation.
Serbia continues to use to its advantage the unilateral sanctions imposed on Kosovo. The EU and the US continue following the situation and making statements that do not solve anything. Vucic, on the other hand, probes Serbia’s Western partners to see how far they are willing to get in “punishing” Belgrade.
Serbia has its traditional allies on its side – China, Russia, Republika Srpska (an entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina), and Hungary. Everyone unilaterally repeats the thesis that it is Kosovo to blame for the escalation of the conflict, and that only establishing the Association of Serbian Municipalities in northern Kosovo can prevent future escalations. Until Pristina takes specific steps in this direction, escalations initiated by the Serbs in the north of Kosovo with the support of Belgrade will become more frequent. Now, Milan Radoicic, former vice-president of “Serbian List,” the largest Serbian party in Kosovo , has taken responsibility for the events in Banska, but it will be more difficult to find the culprits of the confrontation in the future. Radoicic has now taken on the role of scapegoat. And certainly not without a tip from Belgrade, which benefits from the politician’s confession, because it allows to show the existence of contradictions within Kosovo without the involvement of Serbia. It would be beneficial for Serbia’s leadership if the EU and the US understood such contradictions as reasons for the start of the civil war and inter-ethnic clashes, the only way out of which is the creation of the Association of Serbian Municipalities.
However, the game of the Serbian president is no longer without consequences for him. Calls to Washington and Brussels to change their policy regarding Vucic started to be heard more and more frequently in Great Britain, Germany, and the United States. Many diplomats and politicians are calling for sanctions against him and pressure on Serbia to make them fulfill their obligations under the principles of a single European policy. However, the European Union did not take specific actions to force Belgrade to do so. There were only weak statements and calls to consider the European integration.
If the West does not decide to make a 180-degree change in its policy towards Serbia, the deepening of contradictions between Belgrade and Pristina will continue for a long time.
Amid this , the positions of the EU and the USA in Kosovo and Serbia will weaken, yielding to pro-Russian influences and threats.
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