President Donald Trump scored another diplomatic victory after announcing that Kosovo and Serbia would normalize economic relations. As part of the deal, Kosovo will recognize Israel and Serbia will move its embassy to Jerusalem. Similar to the landmark Israel-UAE deal last month, the Kosovo-Serbia deal is just another of Trump’s tactics to advance his foreign policy agenda and strengthen his electorate ahead. November. It is debatable whether the average American voter cares about the Kosovo-Serbia dispute. However, one thing is certain: after more than a decade of fruitless European mediation, the Trump administration is helping Belgrade and Pristina overcome their differences and advance not only their economic interests but also their pivot to the West.
The economic agreement between Serbia and Kosovo is anything but new as the two countries have already taken steps towards economic normalization since 2017. This time around, the two countries have agreed to join the mini-Schengen zone, of operationalize the installation of the common crossing point of Merdare, promote freedom of religion, locate and identify the remains of persons missing from the Kosovo conflict and work towards the decriminalization of homosexuality.
Yet the most pressing issue in the deal is Trump’s motivation to push the Balkans away from China and Russia, which have filled the power vacuum caused by the US and the European Union ignoring the region for two decades.
The strategy of Serbian neutrality, balanced between Russia and China, is unacceptable to America. Therefore, this deal is a litmus test for President Aleksandar Vucic to decide how he wants to run Serbia, as it is a unique opportunity to return to his democratic and liberalizing path. This agreement forces Belgrade and Pristina to give up using China’s 5G network. Given the pressure from China to install 5G networks through Huawei, moving away from 5G could jeopardize Serbia’s relationship with China. The agreement also calls for energy diversification. Considering Serbia’s close ties with Moscow, this may jeopardize relations between Belgrade and Moscow. These two elements reinforce the Trump administration’s foreign policy objectives.
But the biggest coup for Trump comes with the Middle East-focused deals.
The agreement obliges both sides to designate Lebanese Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. With Kosovo and Serbia accepting the designation advance the ongoing maximum pressure campaign on Iran, which has emerged significantly weaker on the world stage after the United Nations Security Council rejected the US proposal to expand it. embargo on arms in Tehran. This deal faces previously strong bilateral relations between Serbia and Iran. With that in mind, in June Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Vucic to expand economic ties between the two countries, stressing the importance of not allowing the US maximum pressure campaign to erode their economic ties.
As a result, Serbo-Palestinian relations will run out of steam. Palestinian official Saeb Erakats’ rash response to the deal underscores how the Palestinians will respond to any nation that eventually falls victim to Trump’s electoral ambitions.
The United States moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018 after recognizing Jerusalem as its capital in December 2017. Trumps’ landmark decision was strongly condemned in a UN emergency resolution session United States, declaring Trump’s status in Jerusalem null and void. Although Belgrade was one of 128 countries that voted in favor of the UN resolution, President Vucic addressed the AIPAC political conference in March to announce Serbs’ intention to open an official office in Jerusalem. This agreement obliges Serbia to move its embassy by July 2021.
The will of Serbia and Kosovo to develop relations with Israel will not go unpunished. As the two countries seek to join the EU, the decision to move their embassies to Jerusalem would deal a direct blow to Brussels. It is EU policy that any embassy move to Jerusalem hampers the advancement of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and unilaterally risks igniting violence in the region. Despite the growls of the EU, the deal is an opportunity for Belgrade and Pristina to point out the European mismanagement of the dialogue on Kosovo.
Guaranteeing a peaceful and prosperous Balkan Peninsula is indeed in the interests of the Americas.
As the Balkans are destabilized by Russia and China, the EU is once again turning a blind eye to their security. Their refusal to end the Kosovo conflict did not end until America decided to intervene. Love it or hate it, the Trump administrations advancing security in the Balkans are a step in the right direction.
Ivana Stradner is a fellow of Jeane Kirkpatrick at the American Enterprise Institute. Allison Schwartz is the Communications Assistant in the Foreign and Defense Policy Department at the AEI.
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