RUSSIA : The West Must Stop Putin From Provoking Conflict in the Balkans
In late September, Serbia deployed advanced weapons to its border with Kosovo, in what amounted to one of the largest Serbian military buildups since the end of the Kosovo war nearly a quarter century ago. In the United States, a spokesman for the National Security Council called it “an unprecedented staging of advanced Serbian artillery, tanks, and mechanized infantry units.” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to demand an “immediate de-escalation.”
Although the buildup was largely overlooked by Western media at the time—and has since been forgotten amid the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas—it is part of an alarming development in the Balkans. The immediate pretext for the Serbian mobilization was months of unrest between Kosovo and Serbia, which have maintained a fragile peace ever since a NATO bombing campaign helped Kosovo win de facto independence from Belgrade in the 1998–99 war. In May, Serbia placed its troops on combat alert after ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo clashed with Kosovo police. And then in September, just before the recent mobilization at the border, 30 heavily armed ethnic Serbs attacked a police patrol in Kosovo, leaving four people dead.
David R. Shedd is former Acting Director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. Ivana Stradner is a Research Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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