If we were to move in time to a very near future, in which the Kosovo issue and the relations between Serbs and Albanians would already be settled by compromise, an agreement to mutual satisfaction (or equal dissatisfaction), it would be historically correct to mention September 2, 2020 as the date when the decisive move was made. In that, rather close future, the meeting in the White House on September 2, 2020, will be recorded as a day from which not much was expected, but it turned out that it exceeded the expectations of all those who underestimated it. And on the eve of that September 2, there were many of them on all sides, without distinction – in Belgrade, Pristina, many more in Brussels, and even among observers in Washington. And now we turn off the time machine and return to real time, ten days before the meeting of Aleksandar Vučić and Avdullah Hoti with US officials in the White House.
Anyone who underestimates Washington’s September 2 today is making a mistake for at least two reasons. One is less important and, objectively, can be understandable, and that is relying on the impression that the Americans, as organizers, keep a “low profile” of the whole event and do not emit too high expectations from it. Another reason, for which, however, there should be no understanding, comes from the belief that the September summit is just a “heated soup” from the never held meeting on June 27, which was torpedoed by the efforts of European leaders who in the meantime took the helm of the Serbian-Albanian dialogue. There should be no understanding for this, because that is exactly the effect that the June operation of blasting the originally scheduled meeting in the White House should have produced, through the sudden publication of the indictment against Hashim Thaci. The effect according to which the one-and-a-half-year strong engagement of the USA in the Serbian-Albanian process will be annulled overnight, and the whole job will be returned to the hands of the then asleep and inert European Union.
Many other, wrong expectations from the meeting in Washington easily follow from these wrong starting points. For example, that the United States and President Trump’s administration have accepted a secondary role since the EU took the dialogue out of their hands in June. Or that there is no time for a big step forward in the negotiations, because the presidential campaign in the United States is already in full swing, so Trump and his associates are preoccupied with other, much more important matters. Or that Trump has already achieved one big foreign policy point before the elections, by achieving reconciliation between Israel and the Emirates, so he does not need another foreign policy effort, nor does he have time for it…
Things are completely different. Back in June (we wrote about it here at that time), it was completely clear that the United States would not only withdraw after the cancellation of the meeting in Washington, but that it would deal even more vigorously with the Serbian-Albanian case, especially because of that. The American media registered the detail that the first announcement of the meeting in Washington on September 2 arrived from Richard Grenell (on Twitter) just a few hours after the White House announced that it had managed to bring Israel and the United Arab Emirates to mutual recognition. So, the success of Donald Trump in the Middle East did not push the Serbian-Albanian issue into a corner, but it was clearly demonstrated that these two operations in the White House are conducted in a completely coordinated and equal manner.
As much as it seems that the meeting in Washington is kept on the low threshold of expectations, there is no doubt that it will not be just one of the impersonal rounds of dialogue, to which we have become accustomed for years in Brussels, under the auspices of the EU. It is clear that economic issues will also be discussed, because that is the strategy that the United States and the chief negotiator Grenell have been applying from the very beginning of their “interference” in the Kosovo case. But it is really naive to believe that Trump is organizing a meeting in the White House at the end of the presidential election campaign, just to contribute to increasing the volume of trade exchange between Serbia and Kosovo. That is why a comprehensive solution to the Kosovo problem, that is, the final status of Kosovo, as well as Serbia’s attitude towards that status, will be especially discussed in Washington on September 2. And because of that, this meeting, in the near future, will be marked as the day when a decisive move towards the final agreement was made.
Serbia should not be afraid of such a development. It should look at it as a huge chance for a positive solution to its top national and state issue. Because the status topic of Kosovo is opened by none other than America, the biggest patron of Kosovo’s independence, for which the status of Kosovo has long been resolved and unquestioned. This is an opportunity for Serbia to use the readiness of the United States to bring the two sides to a compromise, because it will not last indefinitely. And other options for Serbia are not particularly favorable, especially those for which Berlin and Brussels are interested, and that is Serbia recognizing Kosovo within its current borders, period. In addition, Serbia is very much affected by the fast pace at which Washington wants to end this process, much more than the procrastination and endless negotiations that Brussels loves and very skillfully conducts.
If there are doubts about the US determination to help Serbs and Albanians reach a historic compromise and do so as soon as possible, the right answer can be found in the words of John F. Kennedy, who once motivated the whole nation to a historic endeavor: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
However, going to the moon was a matter of prestige for the Americans then, and for us, solving the Kosovo problem today is a matter of survival and the future.