Now that the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is all but settled, Western diplomacy, and America in particular, will be turning its attention to Kosovo, where serious developments are brewing.
While hailing the ratification of the Prespes agreement by the parliament in Skopje earlier this month, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci also stated that the name deal could serve as a model for settling a series of disputes between Pristina and Belgrade. In a post on Facebook, he said he hopes that 2019 will be “a year of big decisions” during which Kosovo and Serbia can end “the eternal conflict” dividing them with a deal that will bring peace and normalize bilateral relations.
Last summer, in fact, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell (who announced on Tuesday that he would resign next month) told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, “In the Balkans, we have played a hands-on role in resolving the Greece-Macedonia name dispute and engaging with Serbia and Kosovo to propel the EU-led dialogue.” Just a few weeks ago, meanwhile, US President Donald Trump sent a letter to Thaci and his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, urging them to speed up reconciliation talks and warning that “failure to capitalize on this opportunity would be a tragic setback.”
After the FYROM name dispute, Kosovo is the other dangerous Balkan obstacle that the Americans and Europeans are eager to get past. In the meantime, developments have been speeding up behind the scenes, with there even being talk of such outrageous measures as an exchange of territories.
The West wants to bring all of the countries in the Balkan region under the Euro-Atlantic umbrella, and particularly that of NATO, and so far it looks like they are winning the battle against Russia for influence in the region. A glance at the map shows that once “North Macedonia” and then Kosovo join NATO, only Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina will remain outside the alliance. Having lost the battle for Montenegro and now about to lose the battle for “North Macedonia,” Russian President Vladimir Putin rushed to Belgrade last week on a visit where his message was that Moscow still has a hand in all developments in the Balkans, with Serbia as its springboard. His stance indicates that the battle for Kosovo will be anything but easy.