In the last two weeks, and especially since Kosovo’s government of Albin Kurti was ousted on March 25, career diplomats, experts of international relations and the Balkans, politicians in the US and EU, and others worldwide have become increasingly vocal in criticizing what they see as US administration’s support for the toppling of the government.
Many are worried that, backed by the US envoy Richard Grenell, Presidents of Kosovo and Serbia might attempt (again) to reach a deal based on land swap, a move that is widely seen as dangerous for the region.
American diplomat James Pardew has written an opinion piece in The Hill recently, expressing these concerns.
Pardew has previously served as the American ambassador to Bulgaria. He was involved directly in negotiations with Slobodan Milošević, the President of Serbia during the 1999 conflict in Kosovo, and assisted in the drafting of the Ahtisaari Plan that ultimately resulted in Kosovo’s independence. He also served as the US negotiator in negotiations of the Ohrid Agreement in today’s North Macedonia.
In his piece in The Hill, Pardew expressed puzzlement at the current American administration’s approach favoring Serbia, seeing as the US was one of the main proponents of Kosovo’s independence. This marks a sharp break from years of successful American diplomatic policies in the region.
He warns that Serbia’s current President Aleksandar Vucic, similarly to Milosevic in the 1990s, is using ethnic hatred as a political tool, and in this he enjoys the support of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who could stand to gain greatly from the destabilization of Western European and American relations.
Pardew goes as far as suggesting that the US administration’s foreign policy in the region might be based on Putin’s personal request to President Trump:
“I suspect — without proof — that Putin presented his pro-Serb views to Trump, emphasized that Albanians are Muslims and then asked Trump for help in the negotiations,” he writes.
The author labels the United States’ opposition to Kosovo’s 100 per cent tariff on Serbian goods as highly ironic, given that international sanctions and tariffs seem to be a favorite of US President Donald Trump’s administration.
He claims that he warned Kosovo President Hashim Thaci in a personal conversation that a land-swap deal with Serbia was bound to fail, and that the Trump administration was not to be trusted in negotiations with Belgrade, but Thaci has ignored that advice.
Pardew also alleges that US envoy Richard Grenell’s actions in the Balkans are not coincidental incompetence, but may be directed by Trump, in order to serve the interests of Putin.
“The Grenell mission in Kosovo risks instability in the Balkans and serves no U.S. national interest. The current U.S. policy on Kosovo is diplomatic incompetence at a minimum, quite possibly malfeasance,” he writes.
Joining a number of other international relations experts, Pardew closes by advising that, amid a pandemic, the prudent thing for the US to do is to encourage the stability of Kosovo’s government, and that Kosovo-Serbia relations must be handled with seriousness and professionalism, instead of one-sided diplomatic policies.