„We are ready to fight“ – What is really behind the newest escalation of the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo?

The atmosphere at the border between Serbia and the Republic of Kosovo can best be described with the word strange.

Serbian border guards stand armed to the teeth at the small section that separates the two territories. The tensions that have been in the air for months are clearly tangible. Those who cross the border usually do so only because they have to.

The newest conflict began already around two years ago, when the government of Kosovo banned Serbian license plates in its country and required those living in the country to have a Kosovo license plate.

The approximately 130,000 Serbs in Kosovo had previously used old Serbian license plates from 1999.

But this is just the surface. The true conflict is playing out beneath the surface and is still visible to everyone: Once again, NATO and Serbia, which traditionally sees Russia as its protector, are confronting each other in hostility.

This time with a whole new dynamic given by the war in Ukraine.

A conflict that runs deeper

To understand how a dispute over license plates can push Balkan countries to the brink of armed conflict again, one must look back in history.

Various powers have claimed the territory of Kosovo since the Middle Ages. The Serbian Orthodox Church has long regarded the area of Kosovo as its religious center. From 1389, the area was under Ottoman rule for centuries until it was conquered by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1912.

Yugoslavia, a state home to numerous ethnic and religious groups, dissolved in the 1990s through a brutal war. The trigger for the Balkan War was the collapse of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1992 and its subsequent break-up into a number of independent nation states.

The Balkan War was one of the bloodiest wars in modern times and characterized by ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and human rights violations. Until its end, it cost the lives of hundreds of thousands. 

In 1999, NATO forces became involved in the Kosovo crisis again when they launched a 78-day air campaign against Serbia. This campaign was initiated in response to Serbian military and paramilitary forces‘ campaigns against the Albanian population of Kosovo.

NATO airstrikes, which began on March 24th, targeted military sites within Serbia as well as infrastructure such as bridges, factories, and oil refineries. The goal of the bombing campaign was to force Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his troops from Kosovo and negotiate a political settlement with ethnic Albanian representatives. In the end, Milosevic agreed to withdraw his troops from Kosovo on June 10th 1999, bringing an end to NATO’s involvement in the conflict.

Yet still, wounds inflicted by war remain unhealed on all sides.

Vučić accuses Priština of lying

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić (Serbian Cyrillic: Александар Вучић) accused the Kosovo government of stirring up conflict with lies and trying to drive out the Serbian population from Kosovo.

He also sharply criticized the Kosovo government for banning Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Porfirije Perić (Serbian Cyrillic: Порфирије Перић) from visiting the faithful Serbs in Kosovo for Orthodox Christmas.

On the second day of Christmas, Vučić put the Serbian army on alert. He traveled to the small town of Raška on the border with Kosovo with the Chief of Staff and signaled, “We are ready to fight“.

Wagner mercenaries at the border – Is Russia involved?

According to media reports, Russian Wagner mercenaries are also causing unrest at the border between Serbia and Kosovo. The various Albanian-language news portals report that thousands of people are stranded in Serbia while seeking entrance to Kosovo.

“They are threatened and insulted by Serbian gangs and Russian mercenaries, including drunk ones.“

The Wagner group of Putin confidant Yevgeny Prigozhin is fighting in the war in Ukraine and was also involved in the war in Syria and military operations in Mali and Burkina Faso.

Videos like this one circulate on Twitter, which is supposed to prove the presence of Wagner mercenaries at the border:

The roadblocks have been removed, but the situation remains tense

For now, the roadblocks have been removed and the entry restriction has been largely lifted. However, the situation remains extremely tense.

On the first Wednesday of the year, a Kosovo soldier allegedly shot two Serbs, one of whom was twenty-four and the other only eleven years old. The investigation continues.

Situations like these could escalate the conflict at any time. Nobody in the Balkans wants a war anymore, that much is clear. But the fuse is short, and it is not the people who will decide how it develops further.

Schreibe einen Kommentar

Deine E-Mail-Adresse wird nicht veröffentlicht. Erforderliche Felder sind mit * markiert

Contemporary History & News

In London, Europe’s decline becomes evident

For those arriving in London via Stansted Airport for the first time, the experience might come as a surprise. Yes, Stansted is not the vast international hub that Heathrow is, being more associated with budget airlines. This much is clear, but in a city many regard as a global metropolis, one might expect something a […]

Read More
Contemporary History & News

Lebanon: A Nation on the Brink

The Echo of a Catastrophe On August 4, 2020, the world watched in horror as a massive explosion rocked the Port of Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon. The blast, caused by a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the port, resulted in at least 218 deaths, over 7,000 injuries, and an estimated $15 […]

Read More