Assessed the likelihood of an armed conflict in Kosovo: what is the role of NATO
“For the forces of the Alliance, the repetition of past events is a scripted operation”
The night from July 31 to August 1 was marked for the Balkan Peninsula by a new round of tension between Serbia and self-proclaimed Kosovo. One of the main reasons is the refusal of the Pristina authorities to accept Serbian documents and the issuance of a temporary permit to enter the Kosovo territory.
The approach of the day when Serbian license plates will no longer be recognized on the territory of Kosovo caused a wave of protests among the population. The Serbs living in the region again began to feel discrimination from the authorities of Pristina. The Kosovo police announced the closure of the checkpoint and the bridge between Serbia and the partially recognized republic.
This escalation is no surprise to anyone. According to experts, nothing much is happening now, and any new round of tension in the region is perceived as an ordinary situation that occurs once a year for the past five years.
According to Alexander Pivovarenko, senior researcher at the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, interest in new escalations arises from the growing military component of conflicts.
– There are more and more cases of mobilization of troops, that is, the pulling of the army to the borders. Therefore, each new escalation increases the risk of an armed conflict. The parties have little interest in this, but the risks objectively increase.
The situation is really ordinary. The events of September 2021, when the Kosovo authorities required Serbs living there to issue temporary Kosovo license plates, are similar to the current ones. The actions of Pristina then led to violent clashes between the police and Serbs entering the territory with Belgrade license plates. The situation escalated until weaning not only private cars, but also special ones. The help of Russia, which sent Pantsir complexes to Belgrade, extinguished the situation and brought life in the region to relative normality.
The viscosity of the conflict, however, has not disappeared. The events of last night showed that neither Pristina nor Belgrade will stop at peace agreements if the situation starts to get out of control. Yes, and the flair of the events of 23 years ago, which was frighteningly similar to the situation last night, is present.
As noted by Serbian publications, bells rang continuously in all churches and monasteries of Northern Kosovo, just like in 1999 before the bombing Yugoslavia.
NATO's interest in Pristina is also confirmed by experts. However, a repetition of the events of the late nineties is hardly to be expected. The escalation of the conflict, according to Alexander Pivovarenko, will lead to a scenario of punishing Serbia.
– For NATO forces, the repetition of past events – operation with a pre-written script. It should be noted that back in January 2021, in the foreign expert press, Serbia was called the culprit of a possible conflict in the Balkans, in Bosnia or Kosovo, the expert comments. – No matter where, but the culprit has already been identified. Now Serbia is also accused of its diplomatic position of cooperation with Russia, which, as it were, violates European discipline. Therefore, such an action would increase the viability of NATO and show that the bloc is capable of dealing with challenges. But this would lead to some kind of coercion of Belgrade.
The Serbian authorities understand this prospect, so there is no interest in escalation. The current tension does not come from Serbia, but Belgrade is forced to respond to the actions of Pristina. The world community should not be afraid of a large-scale armed clash, taking into account Pristina's delay in adopting the rule for replacing Serbian license plates with Kosovo ones, for the time being. According to expert assessment, such a scenario is possible if events at the border itself or somewhere else go according to a bad scenario. The appearance of victims, even by chance, will lead to irreversible events, and in the end Serbia will be declared the culprit, no matter what happens.
Based on such a scenario, the position of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić is understandable, who, in an address to nation said that “Serbia will pray for peace, but if the persecution continues, Serbia will win.”
Recall that the autonomous province of Kosovo and Metohija declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. To date, 98 states have recognized Kosovo's independence. The remaining states did not recognize or remained neutral regarding the independence of the republic. The Serbian government considers Kosovo its territory. In 2013, the process of normalizing relations with the government of Kosovo began, but all steps remain ineffective.
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