The crisis in Kosovo is being escalated by President Vucic of Serbia, who is experienced in doing so. Together with Russia, he pushes towards the unprotected flank of the European Union.

kosovo serbia border map
[Kosovo-Serbia border map/Google Maps 2022]

Will there be another war in the Balkans? Will there be another war somewhere else in Europe? At least Twitter users in Germany were experiencing a state of exhilaration on Sunday evening: It was reported that there were armed battles, and President Aleksandar Vui of Serbia was cited as declaring that the situation had never been more tense, and that Belgrade will do all necessary to make peace a reality.

What came to pass? The government of Kosovo came to the conclusion in June that extra entrance requirements should begin being enforced beginning on the first Monday in August. When entering Kosovo, inhabitants of Serbia will be able to get temporary identity cards under the provisions of the new legislation that was just issued. If you are a citizen of Kosovo and you intend to enter Serbia, you are subject to the same laws as everyone else. However, it did not get to that point: throughout the course of the weekend, members of the Serbian minority erected barricades at two of the country's border crossings. In response, the Kosovar administration sent in special police, who finally locked down both of the border crossings for the time being.

On the other hand, reports that surfaced in the Serbian media on Sunday evening claiming that there had been armed clashes in which people on both sides had been injured drew the attention of the international community. This was in conjunction with the remark that was made by President Vucic, which was previously mentioned. In addition to this, there were whispers going around that the local Serb populace had been given firearms. Vui's party, the Serbian Progressive Party, had a member of parliament who openly hypothesized that Serbia would be compelled to denazify the Balkans. This surely did not assist the situation, and Moscow's rhetoric sent their respects. Russian news agencies covered live from the site and circulated the rumors that were originating from the Serbian media.

The Serbian media claims turned out to be false, and the NATO-led Kosovo force KFOR issued a statement that night in which they reiterated their mission to guarantee peace and security in Kosovo. Despite the uproar in the media, the all-clear signal may be given for the time being. The compromise option that was presented by the US embassy and is now being adopted by the Kosovar administration allows for the measures to be postponed for an additional month (starting from September 1st) "to give all parties time to adjust to the new restrictions." This indicates that Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti also has formal support from the United States for the actions that have been taken.

The riots did not begin of their own own; rather, they were precipitated by a specific event. The new entrance rules that the government of Kosovo established in June are examples of what are known as "reciprocity measures." The reason for this is that Kosovar citizens who wish to enter Serbia are required to cover their license plates with stickers and receive temporary identification documents at the border crossing. This is due to the fact that Kosovar identification documents are not recognized by the authorities in Serbia.

The Kurti administration had already implemented the first reciprocal measures by the time September 2021 rolled around. These measures included the tacking on of Kurti national emblems to Serbian license plates upon admission. There were also tensions at that time; special forces from both sides turned up, the Russian ambassador and the Serbian defense minister inspected soldiers on the border, and Serbian military jets took off from the Serbian side. However, after the first outbreak of discontent, the restrictions were secretly put into effect.

Even after this past weekend, it should come as no surprise that the second phase of the reciprocity measures is on its way. This time, even with the tacit agreement of the United States of America. This is noteworthy in light of the fact that it has consistently opposed the implementation of reciprocity measures in relation to the talks between Kosovo and Serbia.

Even though the events that occurred over the weekend did not develop beyond the levels that were represented, they show quite clearly how skillfully Belgrade can raise the temperature in order to preserve the fragile status quo in relation to Pristina. The leadership of Serbia is one of the few institutions in Europe that has come close to perfecting the art of "controlled escalation."

On the other hand, if you pay attention to the reports coming out of Germany, you could get the notion that President Vuic, a level-headed individual in charge of the state, is pleading for moderation. And there is no one to blame because Vui, who served as Minister of Information under Slobodan Milosevic, is a master of hyperbole that escalates and then de-escalates the situation. When he states that Serbs in Kosovo should not allow themselves to be provoked and that he would do all in his power to protect the peace, it begs the questions, "Who is questioning the peace?" and "Who is inciting whom here?" Following the same pattern as before, there were increasing signs over the weekend that the roadblocks were not the result of spontaneous gatherings of a few angry citizens but were at least approved of by Belgrade, if not actively encouraged. This is because the previous pattern showed that the roadblocks were not the product of spontaneous gatherings of angry citizens. Control over the Serb minority in Kosovo is exercised by Serbia in an indirect and operational capacity. Not only does the Vuid regime respond passively to developments in northern Kosovo, but it also actively participates in the development of those events. This is accomplished mostly via Srpska, the electoral list of the party representing Kosovo's Serb minority, as well as by the dissemination of false information by media outlets in both Serbia and Russia.

There are several remarkable similarities between the Russian and Serbian approaches to foreign and security policy. A self-perceived humiliated former central power is fomenting instability on the periphery of its once-existing state. This is a mode in which conflicts are most likely to continue to exist. First, Russia and Serbia share a revanchist agenda. One could say that Moscow has learned more from Belgrade than the other way around. Second, both countries are working toward the same objective of keeping the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia in its current condition for the longest period of time feasible. The violence that occurred over the weekend demonstrates that very little expenditure of finances is required. Thirdly, both nations use equivalent tools, albeit Serbia does so with a lower level of intensity than its counterpart. On July 31, we were able to see media support coming from Moscow for the confrontations that originated in Belgrade. A spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also harshly criticised the government of Kosovo and lambasted it for its unilateral escalation of the conflict. A typical perpetrator-victim reversal.

To see the political situation in Serbia as nothing more than an extension of the Russian Federation is, to put it mildly, a myopic view. The politics of Vui are defined by a very effective vector policy, which is a strategy that seeks to keep positive ties with a large number of big nations while also attempting to preserve a balance of power amongst these powers. In spite of this, Russia and Serbia are working toward the same objectives and aims with regard to the Kosovo problem. Due to the fact that Serbia can always depend on Russian backing in the Kosovo war, Serbia does not support the unified European sanctions strategy against Russia. This is a reflection of the fact that Serbia can always count on Russian support.

Not just in politics, but also in the methods that are used, this congruence may be seen. This past weekend provided a perfect example of the notion of media incitement to violence, which involves the use of increasingly heated rhetoric in conjunction with logistical backing from "irregular elements." Although Russia has also taken an active involvement in the matter via its news outlets, it has merely served to opportunistically support what has emerged from Belgrade.

As a result, because of Russia's direct and indirect influence in the area, it will continue to serve as a "open flank" for both the European Union and NATO in their struggle with Russia. In particular, this will apply to the war between Kosovo and Serbia. The recent episode demonstrates how little it takes to instigate and exacerbate tensions (at the end of the day, it is a simply administrative entrance requirement). This precarious position will persist until the European Union and the transatlantic alliance system are fully incorporated into the political and economic systems of Kosovo and the other Western Balkan republics.

The turbulence that occurred over the weekend demonstrates how minimal resources are required to instigate conflicts that would tie the political and/or military forces of the EU and/or NATO in the event of uncertainty. Even though there is no likelihood of an armed confrontation between Serbia and Kosovo in the near future, the events that took place over the weekend highlight the significance of the KFOR mission and the strategic worth of Kosovo in terms of its vulnerability in relation to the war with Russia. The expansion program of the EU is where one should look for a political answer to the problem of a "open flank."

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