It used to be simple. It was deemed – if there are American soldiers somewhere, then American business will come there. This simple geopolitical equation was used by everyone in the Balkans, from university professors, journalists, diplomats, to analysts in front of rural cooperative stores. Frankly speaking, this simplification was helped by many in the West who lightly promised prosperity just to calm the passions of war. The long-term involvement withthe Balkans exclusively as a military and security problem has left a deep and bad legacy, according to which peace is the most that the region can hope for, and that it should not ask for or expect anything more. And the equation from the beginning did not turn out to be correct, check in Northern Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia.
The arrival of the American development agency DFC in Serbia, only 14 days after the economic agreement between Belgrade and Pristina in the White House, is an obvious and strong demonstration of the change in American policy in the Balkans. The change is huge and goes from the ground up. After a quarter of a century of looking at the Balkans as an exclusively security and military problem, America changed its glasses and began to look at it through economic and development lenses. An initial approach may have been necessary, because the war in the middle of Europe needed to be stopped, but it did not bring prosperity. In Washington, therefore, they decided to change the “game” and offer a combination of money (development) and political partnership as a solution to the ossified problems (Kosovo).
Since the beginning of his mandate, Donald Trump has not been given a chance to succeed in the field of foreign policy. He has been “targeted” all the time because of his announcement that he will deal with world crises as he deals with business, that he will make “deals”. If we ignore the previous years, his ups and downs on the international scene and keeponly the last few months, as long as he deals with our yard, Trump’s strategy of “making deals” is more than successful.
The deal between Belgrade and Pristina, which he sponsored on September 4 in his office in the White House, is only one part of Trump’s broader foreign policy action, which includes Israeli-Arab relations in the Middle East, as well as intra-Afghan negotiations between the government and the Taliban, which were launched in Doha. Their common feature is the desire of the American administration to withdraw (militarily and security-wise) from as many global crisis areas as possible after many decades and to continue to maintain its influence by other means, primarily economics and diplomacy. Leaving their former role of a powerful, armed supervisor to local players, who accept the obligation to build a strong partnership with America.
Kosovo, for example, is just one of the areas from which Trump wants to withdraw as many of his troops as possible, today there are 667 in KFOR. He withdrew troops from Syria, announced a reduction in Germany, and of course in Afghanistan… He wants to replace the military with something more profitable for America, but also more profitable for those where that military is, which is undoubtedly a business, combined with a political partnership.
With the deal from Washington, Serbia is slowly ceasing to be a European “military border”, as it has been observed for a long time from Brussels, and the Kosovo problem ceases to be treated only as military-security. The American offensive has already accelerated the traditionally slow European mediators to reach an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina as soon as possible. And the new, “peace” strategy will certainly change the EU’s attitude towards the Balkans, which for all these years has actually been the attitude towards its border zone, for which the only thing that matters was to be stable and without war. “In order to make war impossible on our continent, we need to unite Europe by introducing the Balkans into the EU,” Federica Mogherini was saying until last year, looking at the Balkans only as a problematic child who should be kept away from quarrels. No one thought about whether it would get breakfast, education, a chance to be one of the equal Europeans.
Several hundred square meters of the business office of the American development agency DFC in Belgrade will bring greater benefits and a greater chance to Serbia and the Balkans than the 3.5 square kilometers of the Bondsteel base in Kosovo. It will benefit both America and its economy, because it will bring business to a country where investments are very profitable, like few places in Europe. They will come to a country that is a partner, not an American rival.
The courage of the new American approach must “infect” the Europeans as well, so that they, too, can remove security out of the Balkan equation and include development as the main component. This is an area whose economies together are equal to one Slovakia, and whose population is slightly smaller than Romania’s, and therefore cannot in any way upset any balances within the Union. With its strong entry into Serbia and the Balkans, through the Kosovo issue, America is actually encouraging Europe to do the same, and to “absorb” the only area that has not yet been integrated into the EU as soon as possible. By ceasing to treat Serbia and its neighbors only as a “barracks” for defense against migrants, criminals and their own conflicts, and to open their chances for rapid development. Listen to Trump, his business sense for a “good deal” brings results.