Future of Kosovo - Modern Affairs DOCUMENTARY

Future of Kosovo - Modern Affairs DOCUMENTARY

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The Cold War has been over for more than  thirty years but despite some rather   dubious claims to the contrary, history  has certainly not ended. The events of   the present are rooted firmly in the past  and so we wanted to take a look at some   present hotspots to give an explanation  of current events, how they came to be,   and some possible outcomes going forward. And what  better place to start than Kosovo. I’m your host   David and today we are heading to the Balkans…the  comments should be fun! This is…the Post-Cold War? Hi everybody, as you know, Turkey and Syria  suffered a devastating earthquake on the 6th   of February. The death toll is in the 10s of  thousands, and many tens of thousands more  

are wounded, and millions have been made  homeless and will suffer in the aftermath.   For obvious reasons, it is difficult to find  a reliable way to support our brothers and   sisters in Syria, but we can do our best to help  Turkey. All money we make from this video will   go towards the Turkiye Earthquake Relief  Fund. You can join us in this endeavour.   If you have the ability to do so, please  press the donate button to the right of   this video. The Turkish people are desperate for  assistance, and every dollar helps. Thank you! As recently as August 2022, fears abounded  of inflamed tensions along the border between   Kosovo and Serbia over something as seemingly  trivial as vehicle license plates. Many,  

analyst’s, who knew nothing about the region by  the way, rapidly began to compare the situation   to the Russo-Ukrainian War and postulated that  Serbian invasion of Kosovo was likely underway.   As we know, these wild claims ended up being  unfounded. But we did see tensions escalate   again in November 2022 with demonstrations  being held in the Serb-populated northern   regions of Kosovo and the closing in December  of 2022 of the road-passes on the Kosovo side   of the border. Now, the history of Kosovo  and Serbia and the future of the region,   raise interesting questions about statehood and  secession, as well as the Balkans in general.   The internal politics Serbia and Kosovo are, as  you would expect, unique but also run quite deep,   well beyond the many stereotypical  headlines. So, how did we get to the   current status quo and what does the possible  future between Kosovo and Serbia look like? So before we start, I’m going to give some  disclaimers; this is not a Balkan meme   channel. While many stereotypes persist about  both Albanians and Serbians, the history of the  

region is rife with conflict which has resulted  in thousands of refugees and dead. This includes   both Serbs and Albanians, so we will avoid getting  into football-style arguments about who is right   or wrong. We also want to avoid Orientalizing  or Otherizing the Balkans as a mystical land of   eternal conflict. That would be giving the  ultranationalists too much historical credit,  

credit which they just don’t deserve. We are also  going be discussing the conflict on its own terms,   avoiding comparisons with other parts of the world  unless necessary and relevant. Whataboutism has   no place. And finally, another myth to dispel  is that this is an ancient conflict. In truth,  

people have been living together in peace  for centuries, with recent developments a   combination of nationalist elites, the collapse  of communism, and geopolitical interventions. So, the region of Kosovo is important to both  the Serbian and Albanian national imaginations.   For Serbs, there is the so-called Kosovo Myth,  a legendary retelling of the Jugovici brothers   and their last stand in the1386 Battle of Kosovo.  The reality of the battle is expertly described in   one of the very first Kings and Generals videos,  well worth checking out if you haven’t already.   The Kosovo Myth frames Kosovo as a  Serbian Holy Land, but in reality,   Kosovo was really formulated in its current  form by 19th century nationalist intellectuals.   Now, for Albanian Kosovars, Kosovo is where  Albanian nationalism was born and where   initial forms to codify northern Albanian  dialects into one language took place. Now,  

more practically, Kosovo has A LOT of mineral  resources, notably lignite but also zinc, lead,   silver and chrome, and whoever has control of the  region stands to gain a great deal financially.   The region is majority Albanian with Serb,  Montenegrin, Romani and Gorani minorities. After the end of the First World War, Kosovo  was made part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia,   but with parts of the region being given  to Montenegro. After the Second World War,   there were plans to merge Albania, Yugoslavia  and Bulgaria into a proto-Balkan Federation,   but the Tito-Stalin split made these plans  untenable, and Kosovo became an autonomous   province of the Socialist Republic of Serbia,  itself a part of the Socialist Federal Republic   of Yugoslavia. Its largely agrarian economy  meant the region was economically impoverished,   but Kosovo slowly gained more autonomy  over time, to the extent of almost   being a quasi-republic under the 1974  constitutional reform implemented by Tito. In 1981, martial law was declared after  protests broke out demanding full Republic   status for Kosovo. After the rise of Slobodan  Milosevic, and as Yugoslavia began to collapse,  

Kosovar Albanians found themselves living under  extremely harsh and repressive conditions,   similar in many ways to an apartheid  regime. Peaceful protest movements were   marginalized by the nationalistic and  Hoxhaist Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës,   the Kosovo Liberation Army, or UCK. The UCK  ended up starting a guerilla campaign that   included targeting civilians, to which the Serbs  responded with brutal repressions and mass graves.   In 1999, in response to outcries from Kosovar  Albanians over advancing Serb forces, and a rather   stunning turn of the UCK towards the US and NATO,  a NATO a massive NATO-led bombing campaign was   initiated, targeting both civilian and military  structures in Kosovo and Serbia controlled by the   Milosevic regime. Serbian troops and civilians  fled the region and were replaced with NATO   troops. Negotiations between the Kosovar Albanians  and the Serbians towards a settlement continued,  

but the extensive autonomy offered by Belgrade  was not accepted by the UCK, many of whose   seasoned fighters were sidelined with young  pro-NATO leaders. The UCK was seeking recognized   independence. In 2004, anti-Serb riots took place  in Kosovo’s northern regions where Serbs still   lived. Eventually, in 2008, Kosovo unilaterally  declared independence, and both sides have engaged   in a diplomatic war for recognition with rounds of  inconclusive negotiations carrying on to this day. Kosovo and Serbia today is effectively a  frozen conflict with the status of Kosovo   remaining uncertain. Kosovo saw a surge of  international recognition in the late 2000s   after its declaration of independence but not  enough recognition to gain it a full membership   of the UN. Serbia's use of Yugoslavia's legacy  of Non-Alignment has allowed Belgrade to lobby  

many in the Global South against recognizing  Kosovo. Kosovo for its part has many of its   backers in the US and the EU, and Pristina has  tried to use that leverage to counter Serbia’s   efforts in order to gain recognition. This  process has stalled and the two sides have   reached a diplomatic stalemate. But, the chances  of an active conflict re-escalating is unlikely,   as Kosovo has a three-tier system of engagement  in response to potential escalations,   starting from the local police,  to international police, to KFOR,   the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.  This doesn’t mean that possible outbreaks of   violence can be discounted however, especially  within Kosovo itself, and vigilance is required. Within Kosovo, there exists a sort of politically  devolved, planned entity called the ‘Association   of Serb Municipalities’, which encompasses the  northern and eastern Kosovar municipalities   which contain a Serb majority. This association  came as a result of a 2013 Brussels agreement  

between Kosovo and Serbia which allowed  devolved powers for local Serbs. However,   the deal has been indefinitely postponed due to  a lack of ratification of the agreement by the   National Assembly of Serbia, and the status of  the Association is unknown. For many in Kosovo,   particularly the ruling Self-Determination Party,  these are seen as a Serb Trojan Horse, as Serbia   pays for local healthcare and policing, giving  Belgrade a degree of influence and control.   Now, Kosovo and Serbia also have some intriguing  internal politics which affect the conflict.   Serbia after the overthrow of Milosevic in  October, 2000, had an array of Presidents,   but in 2014, Aleksandar Vucic came to power  as Prime Minister. In 2017 he became the  

President of Serbia, a post he occupies to  this day. Vucic is a former member of the   far-right Serbian Radical Party, similar to  the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and   with similar accusations of fascism and  of controlling the opposition. He broke   off from the party in 2008 to found his  own more centre-right and pro-EU party,   the Serbian Progressive Party. His profile as a  responsible centre-right and pro-EU politician  

initially made him a darling of EU circles,  as he was a key figure in various talks with   Kosovo. However, his rule has become  increasingly authoritarian, relying on   controlling parts of the state economy in order  to leverage votes. He also has increased police   violence against anti-lithium mining protestors  and various youth movements arrayed against him.

In terms of his position towards Kosovo, he has  increased his anti-Western rhetoric since talks   froze between Belgrade and Pristina. However, we  should dispel several myths regarding Serbia here.   Serbia, while having a strong pro-Russian element  in its society and although Russia does interfere   in Serbian affairs, the country has equally as  many pro-EU elements and Western involvement   as the Russians do and Serbia has been slowly  moving towards the West in the past few years.   This is in no small part due to the geopolitical  reality of being surrounded by NATO and pro-EU   countries. So, Serbia's strong Non-Aligned  status as well as its EU-favoured-President   turned authoritarian-leader, are some of the  reasons for the country’s current predicament.

In Kosovo itself, there has been a recent shift in  politics. Kosovo does have a democratic political   culture, but due to the presence of NATO,  EU, and UN institutions, there are often deep   tensions that run through. Those familiar with  Turkish politics can make analogies to Turkey and   Northern Cyprus; a protectorate with internal  democratic dynamics. Various political forces   exist in Kosovo, with many of the old-guard  UCK members becoming increasingly sidelined,   like Hashim Thaci, who was the previous  President of Kosovo and who has been indicted   on war crimes after his resignation in 2020.  The current President of Kosovo is Albin Kurti,  

a man who was a political prisoner under Milosevic  and who threw tear gas in parliament in 2018. He   and his party are purporting to be anti-corruption  against the UCK establishment as well as promoting   a developmental-state rhetoric in solidarity  with the Global South. This includes rallying   against many of the unelected institutions  in Kosovo, those run by the UN and EU.

In reality, Kurti toned down the rhetoric  from August 2022, under directions from the   U.S. Embassy in Pristina, and he has done  little to alleviate corruption in Kosovo.   Private prisons for refugees from other European  nations exist in Kosovo, and there are high levels   of trafficking in the region. What Kurti  has done is ramp up nationalist rhetoric   against Serbs within Kosovo, though remaining  short of instigating an active conflict. Kurti   also stands against any compromises with Serbia,  such as a potential land swap of northern Kosovo,   where many Serbs live, and southern Serbia, where  many Albanians live. This was something initially  

discussed between Thaci and Vucic. Kurti has also  mentioned the possibility of a union with Albania,   but this is likely more of a bargaining  chip rather than a serious consideration.   As we can see, the dispute is currently at  a standstill due to nationalist sentiment,   a lack of civil society engagement, and  the backing of various geopolitical actors. So, what is the future of Serbia  and Kosovo? Well, barring some   utopian solution of a Balkan Federation  stretching from the Alps to Diyarbakir,   nationalist intransigence may ensure that the  conflict remains frozen for years to come. What  

may change is Serbia’s slow move towards the  West. The Serbian military has conducted many   more drills with NATO than it has with Russia  in recent years. However, much like in Turkey,   this would require demonstrations that there  are realistic chances of Serbia being treated   as a respected partner. There are decades of  prejudices on both side to overcome, after all.

Vucic, for his part, may end up abandoning the  Russo-Serbian friendship in order to survive,   but it doesn’t have to mean an alignment to the  EU and the West. Serbia can also fall back to   closer relations with China with whom they have  been cultivating good relations and whose One   China policy is close to Serbia’s official view  of Kosovo. If he feels like he might lose power,   Vucic can easily fall back on nationalism  to survive, abandoning Western aspirations. In Kosovo, Kurti is popular for the time being,  and his anti-establishment rhetoric combined   with Greater Albanian nationalism has proven  very useful for his political survival and   even resurgence after being booted from his  post in 2019. But he has very little leeway,   with only nationalism as his outlet. However,  should either side’s rhetoric get out of hand   as the November 2022 demonstrations in Mitrovica  have shown, the risk of accidentally stumbling   into warfare significantly increases. Given  the heavy militarization of the region,  

supposedly a deterrent, this could  light a fuse that can’t be stopped.   So, what do possible scenarios look like going  forward? Well, a return of Kosovo to Serbia is   the most unlikely option. Given the physical  presence of KFOR, as well as the presence of   over two million Kosovar Albanians, such  an event is highly unlikely outside of the   results of open warfare and would be extremely  brutal for all involved, no matter the outcome.   This is understood by most of the  players involved, other than perhaps   the ultranationalists from both the Albanian  and the Serbian sides. These are the extremes   who may yet get out of hand if a potential  solution is presented that they dislike. Proposals for a Cyprus-style federation  of Kosovar Serbs often falls on deaf ears,   and Kurti’s party is strongly opposed  to any such parallel social structures.  

Kosovo itself will most likely stay  under its NATO-UN-EU mandate due to   the continuous perceived threat from Serbia,  as well as the Russian invasion of Ukraine,   which has created the perceptions of potential  dangerous spillovers. These narratives are   useful locally to maintain the legitimacy  of both the Serb and Kosovar leadership,   as well as that of NATO, EU, and Russian presence  in the region as allies of factions within states. In terms of a possible land swap, this is a more  likely scenario, should Serbia continue moving   more overtly towards the West and Kosovar backers  in the West continue to see it as beneficial.   This would help to solve the disputes of ethnic  minorities within Kosovo and Serbia, but there are   still obstacles. Kurti is against any such deal,  and can use a union with Albania as a bargaining  

chip. There is also an issue in thise with the  surrounding Balkan countries. North Macedonia has   an Albanian minority, while Montenegro and Bosnia  have large Serb minorities. Any sort of land swap   in Kosovo runs the risk of jeopardizing their  territorial integrity by creating precedents.   This is something that will make things  difficult in Serbia itself, as nationalist   forces currently managed by Vucic might get out  of control if they see some sort of betrayal. In terms of the fight over official  recognition, this has also stalled   and will likely remain so. Given Serbia’s  status, and Kosovo’s backing by the West,   the current number of states recognizing Kosovo  may stay fixed for a long while. Serbia cannot  

join the EU without the matter of Kosovo being  settled, so neither Belgrade nor Pristina will   have to talk to each other and sort things  out; no outside alliance will help them,   and may in fact benefit from continuing the  conflict and supporting the nationalists. Another possible outcome lies with an  Albania-Kosovo union. The threat of this   is usually used by Kosovo as a bargaining tool  against Serbia, but if resentment towards the   current situation continues, some nationalist  forces may utilise it to become officially   recognized. Given that Albanian parties from all  around the region have met in Tirana, and that a   Greater Albania is a goal in Albanian nationalist  circles around the region, this possibility should   not be discounted. In addition, much like the  independence of Kosovo is used by Russia when   defending its own annexation of Crimea, so can  Crimea and the annexation of Southeastern Ukraine   be used by Albania in this endeavor. However, the  devil is in the details. While polls in Kosovo do   show support for a union with Albania, especially  in terms of finally being recognized by the UN,   when asked about the details, including whether  it will be a federation or a unitary state run   by Pristina, or the economic impact,  the picture is far more complicated.  

This impacts Kosovo’s idea of independence,  as well as the autonomous Serb minority that   itself wants to join Serbia. Such a move would  come as an act of desperation, or boldness,   and would most certainly cause open  conflict within Kosovo itself once again. The most likely scenario going forward  is the status quo, with the conflict   continuing to be frozen in place, and a  low risk for violent escalation. There   are no ongoing negotiations to work towards a  solution, and civil society remains disengaged   from the overall process, a factor which  would increase the chances of success.  

Occasional protests and demonstrations will  continue as a form of cultural capital for   political leaders. And this is where the danger  lies. If one of the sides becomes too bold or too   nationalistic, they may make a drastic move  that results in the conflict re-escalating.   Even an accidental on-the-ground event could spark  conflict within or between both Kosovo and Serbia.   However, both left-wing and anti-austerity  movements within both Kosovo and Serbia,   which are anti-nationalist, as well as  small-scale initiatives between the ethnic groups,   do provide some small hopes for alternatives.  However, the nationalist fever dreams and   perceived geopolitical alliances, even as  Serbia slowly drifts closer to the West,   are too good for anyone to let go of, for both  Kosovo and Serbia, as well as Russia and the West. The events that took place in November and  December of 2022 have shown how some of these   processes have been exacerbated. The November  protests largely concentrated towards Serb-areas,  

with Albanian Kosovar rhetoric focusing  on them being a Trojan Horse for Serbia.   Serbia for its part used ultranationalist  rhetoric as a guardian of Kosovar Serb interests.   Things seemed to improve after a bizarrely-worded  deal in early December, in which Serbia seemed to   agree to revoke its various vetoes on Kosovar  membership in organizations like UNESCO.   This led to further protests breaking out however,  resulting in Kosovo closing down its border   crossings while Serbia backtracked and placed  its forces on a higher level of combat readiness.  

Serbia is more armed than it was in 2004  when anti-Serb riots occurred in Kosovo,   however, the presence of NATO-led KFOR troops  provides a degree of security and Kosovo is   still not willing to negotiate on the autonomy of  Serbs within Kosovo or even discuss land swaps. Consider that Kosovo’s security structures are  still formed and managed at the police level,   a local level, not at the KFOR-level. It’s likely  that this is an attempt on both sides to maintain   their nationalist credentials on minor topics like  car signs; a petty squabble if there ever was one.   While Kosovo has claimed that Russia  is behind stoking these tensions,   Moscow appears too preoccupied with the  invasion of Ukraine to have initiated any   major overtures. Moscow’s support has  been of rhetoric rather than action. Serbia may see a particularly harsh crackdown  as a provocation which could lead to an attack,   but this will be a high bar and only a realistic  one if there is a military vacuum in Kosovo;   one that is unlikely to occur any time soon. It  is more likely that Kosovo will continue to try  

to slowly isolate the Kosovar Serb community,  while Serbia will try to gain further influence   in Kosovo via overtures or even an attempt at  joining local security forces. This is further   corroborated by a quick agreement to save  face, which agreed to a resumption of talks.   And of course, possible ‘non-sanctioned’ actions  by either side may also inflame tensions.  

As it stands, the risk remains if protests  and subsequent crackdowns get out of hand.   Both Kosovo and Serbia will use this situation to  strengthen their positions in negotiations, and   to deflect from their own crises of legitimacy.  The increasingly militant rhetoric can, however,   is a fine line to walk and if it was to get  out of hand and extend beyond mere rhetoric,   that is where the true danger lies, including  a situation where more militant forces use   that rhetoric to try and outmaneuver  less hawkish forces on the same side.

The best summary of the current ceasefire with its  stalled intransigence, as well as the utility of   said conflict for various geopolitical players, is  best summarized by American journalist Lily Lynch,   who writes in the New Left Review, “You wouldn’t  know any of this judging by media accounts from   any side. The myth of eternal Serbian-Russian  brotherhood is simply too useful to everyone:   Russia, NATO, Kosovo, and Serbia. But it is  also possible that if Cold Warriors continue   with the reckless dissemination of rumours of  war, they will get the violence they want.” We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and to  make sure you don't miss our future work,   please make sure you are subscribed to  our channel and press the bell button,   no matter what side of frozen conflict it may  find itself on. Please consider supporting us on   Patreon at www.patreon.com/thecoldwar or through  YouTube membership. We can be reached via email  

at thecoldwarchannel@gmail.com. This is the Cold  War Channel and as we think about the Cold War,   please remember that history is shades  of gray and rarely black and whiteI

2023-02-21 02:56

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