The current year, rich in interethnic conflicts, almost ended with another one: on July 31, the situation on the border between Serbia and Kosovo sharply worsened.
The reason for the escalation of tension was the ban imposed by the authorities of the partially recognized Republic of Kosovo on the entry of persons with Serbian documents and cars with Serbian registration numbers.
This restriction provoked protests by the Belgrade-backed Serb population of northern Kosovo. The riots, in turn, almost escalated into an armed clash between two Balkan countries hostile to each other.
History of the conflict in Kosovo
Northern Kosovo, bordering Serbia, is an autonomous region practically not controlled by Pristina, inhabited by ethnic Serbs. The contradictions in Kosovo between Albanians and Serbs are both inter-ethnic and inter-confessional, as well as historical.
Even after the liberation of the region from the Nazi occupation in 1944, the People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia faced stubborn resistance from the Kosovo Albanians.
In the post-war period, the coexistence of Serbs and Albanians in a single Yugoslav state was possible only under conditions of rigid centralized power.
At the same time, peace was relative: Kosovo Albanians constantly complained about violations of rights and freedoms by Belgrade, and the authorities of socialist Yugoslavia were forced to stop their systematic provocations, including armed ones.
Already during this period, there was a steady trend of Kosovo towards secession from Yugoslavia and the possible entry of the region into Albania.
To counter separatist aspirations, Kosovar Belgrade in 1959 attempted to peacefully assimilate the province, annexing to it Northern Kosovo, populated by ethnic Serbs, and implemented a policy of settling Serbs throughout the territory of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo.
Decades later, this revision of the republic’s borders as a federation laid the groundwork for a smoldering conflict.
After the collapse of the socialist camp, the active support of the West for the extremist Kosovo Liberation Army subsequently became the main reason for the NATO war with Yugoslavia (Operation Allied Force), as a result of which this country was divided into independent republics.
Belgrade has lost control over Kosovo and Metohija, but, in turn, Serb-populated Northern Kosovo remains its protectorate: its residents are issued Serbian documents, Serbian registration plates are installed on cars. The Serbian dinar is used as the main currency (the rest of Kosovo is the euro).
Stalemate for Serbia and Kosovo
Thus, within Serbia there is a partially recognized Kosovo inhabited by Muslim Albanians, and inside Kosovo there is Northern Kosovo, the vast majority of whose inhabitants are Serbs.
The delicate balance is ensured by Belgrade’s non-interference in the affairs of the Albanian part of Kosovo, and until recently Pristina in the life of the Serbs in the north of the country.
Attempts to forcibly change personal documents and registration plates for Serb cars by the authorities in Pristina were made repeatedly.
In October 2021, the brutal suppression of a Serb demonstration by the Kosovo special forces almost led to the entry of Belgrade troops into Kosovo.
Who is the puppeteer in the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo
The implementation of the legislative initiative of Pristina on the mandatory introduction of Kosovo documents and license plates for Serbs has been postponed from August 1 to September 1 at the initiative of the US Ambassador Jeff Hovenierwhich leaves no doubt about the total external management of the smoldering conflict in the Balkans.
This is also evidenced by the fact that a sudden aggravation of the situation occurred shortly after the visit of the President of Kosovo on July 26 Vyosa Osmani and prime minister Albina Kurti to Washington, where they held talks with the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Today, Serbia is the only country in Europe (with the exception of Belarus, which is part of the Union State), which clearly supports Russia in all its foreign policy initiatives, including the special operation in Ukraine.
The prospect of depriving Moscow of its only ally in Europe is extremely tempting for the West, and especially for the United States and Great Britain, who have distanced themselves from the destructive political and economic processes in the EU countries.
Monthly reprieve from oppression of Kosovo Serbs – just an excuse to distract Belgrade from the global political agenda and the weakening of the popularity rating of the current leadership of Serbia. By September 1, another round of tension is expected.
Bloodshed with the advent of autumn is quite possible, but it is unlikely to be large-scale. None of the opposing sides has a military contingent capable of unambiguously resolving the conflict in its favor. Therefore, the Balkans are unlikely to become the epicenter of the Third World War. What’s more, it’s actually already on its way.