At this morning’s committee hearing entitled, “Assessing U.S. Policy Towards the Western Balkans,” U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee attacked Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić as the main obstacle to peace in the Balkans.
In his opening remarks, Menendez identified the conflict between Serbia and the autonomous province of Kosovo as the primary issue facing the Western Balkans. “To my mind, the crux of stability in the Western Balkans rests with the resolution of the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia,” the chairman stated. “We need responsible leaders willing to make and uphold significant commitments for their populations. Kosovo must seize this opportunity of renewed engagement and work with European partners to move forward. However, I personally do not believe we have equal participants acting in good faith.”
“In February — as part of the ongoing Brussels-facilitated dialogue — Serbia and Kosovo verbally agreed to an agreement negotiated by the European Union. Shortly thereafter Serbian President Vucic made a public speech disagreeing with the contents of the agreement and refusing to sign because he still does not recognize Kosovo’s independence. This is part of a pattern of Vucic saying one thing to placate Western leaders and saying another to the Serbian people through his state-controlled media. Controlling the information space and cracking down on civil society, President Vucic continues to embrace nationalist Serb narratives perpetuating his vision of ‘Sprski svet’ a great Serbian nation, much like Putin’s visions of greater Russia. Indeed, Serbia’s President has boasted about his close personal ties with Putin. He has flown to Moscow for trade talks and refused to join European partners in imposing sanctions on Russia.”
Menendez revealed his bias by refusing to acknowledge Serbia’s legitimate concerns about Albin Kurti’s refusal to implement the Community of Serbian Municipalities (CSM) previously agreed upon by the two sides. “Most of what I see is pressure on Kosovo for the Association of Serb Municipalities, which I do recognize Kosovo had previously agreed to. But it seems to me there is little to no pressure on Belgrade. Nor any real plan or guarantee that the Association of Serb Municipalities would not become another Republika Srpska that we are seeing the dangerous implications of in Bosnia and Herzegovina right now,” he argued.
The Democrat Senator acknowledged that the real goal of American foreign policy is to bring all of the nations of the Balkans into the American sphere of influence, consolidating a new colonial empire in the region. “The war in Ukraine has reinvigorated the imperative of supporting European countries’ efforts to make the necessary reforms and commitments to join the European Union,” he continued. “We must seize this moment to promote new inroads with partners with whom Russia has traditionally held significant political, military, and economic influence…. Because while local leaders engage in destabilizing rabble-rousing to further their own power, Moscow has long worked to exploit the historic ethnic fault lines of the Balkans for its own advantage…. Of course, as we work with our partners to move them away from Russia we do not want them to run towards China in the process.”