As a result of Europe’s new Cold War, a conflict that has been frozen for over 20 years could flare up again.
By Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs, chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and research director of the Valdai International Discussion Club.
There are frequent tensions between Belgrade & Pristina due to the fact that Kosovo has not been settled since 1999, the year Kosovo was de facto independent from the US after it received its NATO-led NATO combative campaign.
There is an increased risk that routine friction could escalate into dangerous conflicts because of the change in context.
In strict conformity with the dominant strategy at that time, the problem of Kosovo was resolved by the 20th century. Most of Europe is divided (i.e. Outside the USSR, disputes were resolved according to EU principles of fairness. Wherever they couldn’t be settled amicably by the EU, pressure was applied to those who rebelled and the EU used military force (mainly American as usual).
The most recalcitrant players were in the Balkans – in the first half of the 1990s, the Bosnian war took place, and in the second – the Kosovan conflict.
We can only talk about what is most important without assessing politics’ quality over the last 25 years. The region developed in conditions where the only future roadmap for the various state was eventual membership of the EU – the prospects of which varied from relatively close or very distant, but inevitable.
There was no alternative, there were no plans C, D or B. In other words, the EU regulated local processes and this was generally accepted as the norm.
Moreover, other powers which have been traditionally active and important in the Balkans – Russia and Turkey – indicated their presence (sometimes quite clearly), but did not pretend to have a decisive voice in the way things were arranged. This structure also allowed the area for flexibility to be created by the various countries, even those that were the most unhappy, such as Serbia.
There are two major changes now. The EU is now in a fragile state and isn’t ready to accept full responsibility for complex politics in its immediate region. It cannot promise membership, and more precisely – even if such a pledge were made, it doesn’t guarantee anything.
The EU’s management of the central Balkan problems – in Bosnian and Kosovo – has not led to the desired outcome over the past quarter of a century. Thus, it’s all the less likely that it will work out now. Second, Russia and West (the EU plus NATO and USA) are engaged in an intense confrontation.
Therefore, it is unreasonable to assume that Moscow will help in the resolution of this situation (whether it be Kosovo or Bosnia). The West’s preferred practice of “selective interactions” is no more applicable. This means that we can only work with Russia when we are in need, and we won’t engage in other matters. No cooperation will occur: Russia will always be at the other end of any barricade, regardless of what the issue is. The Cold War is a global systemic conflict. This reality has a significant impact on what happens in the Balkans.
The question is to what extent the regional actors have retained their passion for showdown, revenge or expansion. It is possible that the zeal may have been exhausted or emasculated. However, if the fire is still burning, then external forces can enter the fray and support opposing parties.
Statements, opinions and views expressed in this column do not reflect those of RT.
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