Miroslav Antić


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A „New Birth of Freedom“ for Serbs?

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A “New Birth of Freedom” for Serbs?

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Stevan Gajic

A really remarkable chain of events has been happening to Serbs during recent months and weeks. It started at the end of 2016 and continued even faster with the beginning of 2017. Firstly, a proven enemy of Serbs, Hillary Clinton, lost the US presidential election, which was immediately met with rejoice among Serbs, especially in the contested territories. I say lost, because the victory of Donald Trump is not seen as an immediate benefit because of Trump’s qualities, but because the Clinton family has special interest in favoring all Serbian enemies in the Balkans. Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of Serbs, first in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1994 and 1995, and then in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (today’s Serbia and Montenegro) in 1999.

This is why it should not be a surprise that Serbs in Kosovo, Montenegro and Republika Srpska (the Serb part of Bosnia-Herzegovina) erected huge billboards with Trumps face and a message reading “Serbs stood by him all along”.

The second important event was the visit of Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, to Belgrade on December 12th and 13th at a time when he was in the middle of very intense diplomatic activities surrounding Syria. This visit took place during the peak of operations for the liberation of Aleppo. Visiting Belgrade at such a moment clearly signals the place of Serbia on Russia’s foreign policy agenda. Yet even more important was the fact that this visit sealed the deal by which Serbia is to receive a donation of six MiG-29 fighter jets by March 2017.

Thirdly, in spite of immense Western pressure spearheaded by the once powerful ‘viceroyal’ Office of the High Representative of the ‘international community’, nowadays occupied by Austrian diplomat Valentin Incko, as well as despite the pressure marked by both protests and warmongering threats from the Muslim leadership of Sarajevo, Republika Srpska celebrated its official holiday in memory of its founding on January 9th, 1992. The anniversary celebration in Republika Srpska’s capital, Banjaluka, took place on the Day of St. Steven, who is the patron saint of the Republic. This year, the celebration contained an element of well-balanced demonstration of power. Part of it was a parade in which participated, among others, the Republika Srpska’s special police forces who marched in camouflage uniforms with Kalashnikov assault rifles. Sarajevo and Incko also opposed the ceremonial participation of the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Bosnia-Herzegovina armed forces, designated as the keeper of Republika Srpska Army traditions after the post-war creation of a unified armed forces. They were invited by Mladen Ivanić, the Serb member of the Bosnia-Herzegovina three-men presidency. Their presence demonstrated that Bosnia-Herzegovina is not an effective state and that Serbs are loyal to the Republic for which they sacrificed during the civil war. Besides Ivanić and the President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, the celebration was attended by President of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolić, Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Irinej, Serbia’s armed forces Chief of Staff General, Ljubiša Diković, Serbian Crown Prince Alexander, leaders of Serbs from all former Yugoslav republics, and other high guests. Notably, Serbia’s pro-globalist PM, Aleksandar Vučić, was absent, being away on a several day visit to India where he was participating in the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ business conference. Vučić was the only Serb leader who supported Hillary Clinton, as he was a guest at an event organized by the Clinton Foundation. Vučić is now trying to get back on track with the new reality by attempting to establish connection with the entourage of the new President of the United States.

The celebration in Banjaluka was a demonstration of willingness to defend the results of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement which is constantly being undermined at the expense of Republika Srpska by attempts at centralizing Bosnia-Herzegovina by both the Muslim leadership in Sarajevo and the High Representative.

President Dodik’s most important political message was that if the pressure continues, Serbs are ready to defend themselves and proclaim full independence of their Republic with the right to join Serbia in the future.

What really frightened Muslim leader Bakir Izetbegović is that Dodik was invited to Donald Trump’s inauguration, which is perceived as a clear indicator of some new winds blowing in the Balkans. However, in a move unheard of before, the outgoing US administration refused to issue a travel visa to the guest invited by the president-elect. The ‘lame duck’ administration went even an extreme step further: only three days before the inauguration, the State Department imposed sanctions against Dodik personally (ban on travel to the US and freezing assets in the US, non-existent in this case). This unprecedented scandal is just another in a series of moves by which Obama’s outgoing administration aimed to hinder the new president.

And this is not the end. All Serbian opponents in the region seem to have lost their common sense. Albanians are notorious for building a monument to Bill Clinton and naming a boulevard after him, as well as a clothing shop after his wife, Hillary. It is no surprise that every Albanian leader has supported Clinton. Some of them, like the PM of Albania, Edi Rama, went as far as to insult Trump during the campaign. Rama was so sure of his political predictions that at the Belgrade Security Forum in October 2016, in front of many journalists, participants and his fellow panelist, Serbian PM Vučić, he exclaimed how sure he is on who will be the next US president, and that it certainly would not be Trump. Bosnian Muslim leader Izetbegović organized rallies in support of Clinton. He is not at ease with Trump because of the latter’s attitude towards radical Islamic terrorism, and Izetbegović has well known ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. His father, Alija Izetbegović, was the first to introduce jihadi warriors in Europe during the 1992-1995 civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Those courted included Osama bin Laden, who was granted the citizenship and passport of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Croats also supported Hillary, but were more tactical about it in taking care not to show any open dislike for Trump. However, they made another huge incident. During his official visit to Kiev, Croatian PM Andrej Plenković offered his hosts to share Croatia’s ‘know-how’ and experience of ‘reintegrating’ rebellious territories. The Croatian example is that of ethnically cleansing more than half a million Serbs and committing numerous other war crimes in the process. Plenković essentially suggested that the Croats would help the current authorities of Ukraine to get rid of the Russian population. This provoked a harsh reaction from Moscow. But instead of backing off, Plenković reaffirmed his position, which provoked Russia even more. In the context of Trump’s victory and a possible new global deal between Moscow and Washington, these statements were more then harmful for Croatian interests.

Earlier in 2016, Brexit announced a year of great changes and, most importantly, the fall of the EU, which is in a state of utter confusion and submerged in political divisions. On top of this, the US President-elect predicted its demise in his interview to The Times just days before taking office. This might as well be the case.

Let us not forget that after Slovenia’s succession, Yugoslavia still formally existed, but it was in effect broken, never to recover. The EU without the UK is not and never will be the same, even if it survives in one form or another. Another important statement that Trump made in this interview was labelling NATO obsolete. One of the consequences of this statement in the Balkans is that pro-globalist political elites have lost the ideological ground under their feet. This especially goes for Montenegro, whose ruling class dominated by the unchallenged leader Milo Đukanović is now absolutely lost since Euro-Atlantic integration, Russophobia, and Serbophobia are all they have to offer nowadays. Now that the future of both the ‘Euro’ and ‘Atlantic’ communities is questionable, they have nothing to offer. Montenegro has already been in deep political crisis since the October 2016 parliamentary elections. The only logical—and in my deepest belief inevitable—result of this political and ideological crisis will be a Serbian Spring in Montenegro, and an urge for unification with Serbia and Republika Srpska, which would not be the first time.

That state of new affairs is obviously putting pressure of Serbia and Serbs in the region. This was clear after the arrest of the Kosovo Albanian terrorist leader, criminal lord and at one point PM, Ramush Haradinaj, in France on a Serbian warrant for a number of horrendous war crimes.

Serbia told France that if it does not extradite Haradinaj to Serbia then, by reciprocity, Serbia will not extradite people wanted by France that are arrested in Serbia. Such a clear attitude would have been unimaginable just weeks ago, when the process of ‘EU integration’ was the top priority for the Serbian political elite. Another example is the attitude of Serbia’s President Nikolić, who convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council after a Serbian passenger train from Belgrade was not allowed to enter the Serb-dominated north of Kossovo. In order to prevent the train from entering, ethnic Albanian separatist authorities sent special police forces, which was an act of provoking local Serbs. President Nikolić stated after this emergency session that Serbia will not stand by as Serbs are targeted, but will militarily enter its province. In support of this, at his annual conference on January 17th, Lavrov stated that Albanians should not be present in the Serb-inhabited north of Kosovo. Nikolić went a step further on January 17th by telling the US Ambassador to Serbia: “I always speak frankly and openly and protect the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia. I understand that you unconditionally support a thing whose creation you directly influenced [i.e. secessionism in Kosovo]. By exercising your will, you have created a lot of trouble, and I hope that this behavior will stop with the new administration.”

Before this new wave of confident statements by Serbian officials, probably the only politician in power throughout the Serbian space who predicted these new tendencies and acting accordingly, meaning independently, who was therefore respected home and abroad, was Republika Srpska’s President Dodik.

All of these swift changes in the world — Brexit, Russia’s diplomatic and military victory in the Middle East, Trump’s electoral victory, etc.—seem to have come as unexpected gifts from sky to the Serbs. Serbs are simply not used to such good news. We have been trained to lose and take it like a sport or with a pinch of salt since 1991, the beginning of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Maybe this had an even earlier tradition, since 1918 when the Serbs gave up their own statehood and invested a million and a half lives lost in WWI for a vague “brotherly” Yugoslav identity that failed in 1941 and in 1991, both times with the Serbs betrayed by the ‘brotherly peoples’ with high price in human lives. So what should we make of this, and will Serbian leaders, including those present and those coming in the near future, be capable of capitalizing on these global changes?

Although one should not compare two historic periods – since history almost never repeats itself – there is a striking parallel in US-Russia relations today and during the American Civil War. In the 1860’s, Russia was an ally of the Union and President Abraham Lincoln’s struggle that resulted in ending slavery, while the UK was helping the slaveholding South and invading Crimea just several years before. Nowadays, Russia obviously has sympathies for the new American administration, while many Western leaders and interest groups— whom Alexander Dugin, using Trump’s terminology, generically calls the “Swamp”- openly despise, oppose and almost reject the expressed will of the American people by dismissing the democratic process as “populism”. In 1863, probably the greatest US president and Republican Party leader, and Trump’s predecessor in the oval office, Abraham Lincoln, gave a famous speech known as the “Gettysburg Address”, on the site of a battlefield that saw grand sacrifices of both the Unionist and Confederate soldiers. Talking about the post-war US, Lincoln predicted “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom”. It seems that 2017 might give an answer as to whether or not this unique historical moment in international relations will mark the beginning of a “new birth of freedom” for the Serbs on the Balkan Peninsula.



Written by Mika

24. januara 2017. at 23:34

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Could war return to Kosovo?

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Could war return to Kosovo?

What was supposed to be an historical moment of reconciliation between Serbs in Belgrade and those trapped in Mitrovica, in the disputed territory of Kosovo, has been disrupted by a show of force from Kosovar Albanians.

A train from Belgrade bound for Mitrovica was stopped by ethnic Albanians currently in charge of Kosovo, a legal part of Serbia which unilaterally declared independence in 2008. Kosovo currently has limited recognition as a state.

The proximate cause of the disruption was a slogan written on the side of the train reading ‘Kosovo is Serbia’.

Under normal circumstances this would be a harmless slogan analogous to ‘Boston Is America’. But in the context of the Balkans, the slogan was understood as a provocation of Albanians who – like the US and EU – see Kosovo as a state rather than as a province of Serbia, and an historically important one at that.

The incident prompted Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic to say that the Serbian military would intervene if any harm was to come to Serbs living in Kosovo.

This conflict of course is something of a ghost of Clinton’s past. Under Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, NATO illegally bombed what was left of Yugoslavia in attempts to break apart the state. Kosovo’s status as a province to some and at state to others, has not resolved the lingering conflict, it has only made things worse. Serbs in Kosovo now face discrimination, poverty and violence.

Kosovo was granted special status in Tito’s 1974 Yugoslav constitution. Because Kosovo had an Albanian majority in spite of being part of the Yugoslav Republic of Serbia, autonomous provisions were enshrined into law. By contrast, Serbs living in Serbian majority provinces of Bosnia and Croatia, received no such special status.

In spite of this, as a result of an insurrection which became increasingly funded by external forces ranging from America and Germany to Saudi Arabia, the KLA (“Kosovo Liberation Army”), a group which even the US recognised as a terrorist organisation throughout much of the 1990s, waged brutal assaults on Serbs beginning in the late 1980s.

Rather than mediating in the conflict, NATO bombed a country that had been an ally in both world wars.

There is a very real danger that bloodshed could return to Europe’s forgotten conflict zone.

Hopefully due to Donald Trump’s apparent distaste for intervention, the US will not add fuel to the flames as it did in 1999.

Written by Mika

17. januara 2017. at 23:15

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Serbian Nationalist Train Halts at Border With Kosovo

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Serbian Nationalist Train Halts at Border With Kosovo

The Associated Press

A train left Belgrade, Serbia, on Saturday for Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, where most of Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs live. The train was painted with Serbian flags, religious Christian Orthodox scenes and the words “Kosovo is Serbian” in 20 languages. Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press

BELGRADE, Serbia — A train decorated with Serbian nationalist slogans and images departed on Saturday from Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, and headed for northern Kosovo, but it halted at the border in a stunt that set off a dramatic escalation of tensions between the former wartime foes.

Officials in Kosovo had protested that the train’s planned route into Kosovo was a violation of their country’s sovereignty and promised not to let it in.

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia ordered the train stopped in Raska, Serbia, as it approached the border with Kosovo, a former Serbian province, claiming that ethnic Albanians in Kosovo had tried to mine the railway.

The train was painted with Serbian flags, religious Christian Orthodox scenes and the words “Kosovo is Serbian” in 20 languages.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia does not recognize the split and has sought to maintain influence in northern Kosovo, where most of the country’s ethnic Serbian minority lives.

At a news conference in Belgrade on Saturday, Mr. Vucic accused Kosovo of plans to arrest the train’s driver and passengers.

“This was an ambition to provoke a conflict, to start a wider conflict in this territory that we consider as ours,” he said. “It was my decision to stop the train in Raska to preserve the freedom and lives of our people, to prevent a wider conflict and show that we want peace.”

“We sent a train, not a tank,” he added.

President Hashim Thaci of Kosovo wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday that his country respected the free movement of people and goods but that a train covered in nationalist banners that violated Kosovo’s Constitution and laws was “completely unacceptable.”

The train was to be the first to travel from Belgrade to Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, since the 1998-99 Kosovo war. The train later turned back to Belgrade.

Written by Mika

15. januara 2017. at 09:57

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The Yugoslav tribunal shuts down, a Kosovo tribunal starts up

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The Yugoslav tribunal shuts down, a Kosovo tribunal starts up

Democracy in America | 1 hour 47 mins ago

The Yugoslav tribunal shuts down, a Kosovo tribunal starts up

IT WAS a historic day for international justice, but it did not look like it. On December 15th Ratko Mladic sat in the dock at the UN’s Yugoslavia war-crimes tribunal in The Hague, grumbling and reading a newspaper. When the prosecutor accused him of organising the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys after the town of Srebrenica fell to his Bosnian Serb forces in 1995, he wagged his finger in denial. It was the last day of his trial, though the verdict could be a year in coming. Verdicts about the court itself, meanwhile, are already being handed down.

The case against Mr Mladic brings to an end the trials of the important figures indicted by the tribunal. (Appeals are being dealt with by another body.) In the Balkans, there is widespread disappointment at the role it has played. Meanwhile, as one tribunal shuts down, a new one for Kosovo was launched in the Netherlands on January 1st. Later this year it should begin issuing indictments for Kosovars accused of crimes committed between 1998 and 2000.

Created in 1993 by the UN Security Council, the Yugoslavia tribunal ultimately indicted 161 people and sentenced 83 of them. “Its greatest success,” says Eric Gordy, the author of a book on war crimes in the Balkans, “is that it did anything at all.” Judge Carmel Agius, the president of the tribunal, admits it has been “a troubled journey” but is proud of its achievements.

The tribunal’s biggest failure was its inability to convince people in the former Yugoslavia that it was impartial. Many in the region saw it as a foreign imposition. It was created by outsiders at a moment when the world had the will to demand justice for war crimes wherever they were committed. But trials have dragged on for years, and judges and lawyers are paid handsomely. People in the former Yugoslavia, Mr Agius says, suffer from a habit of “blaming foreigners or someone else” for their disappointments. But, he says, “not a single mass grave would have been excavated” if the tribunal had not existed.

Mirko Klarin, a journalist who urged the court’s creation in an article in 1991, says one success was expanding the definition of war crimes. Yet this, he thinks, may have been the court’s downfall. Starting in 2012, several acquittals called into question the court’s “command responsibility” precedents, which held leaders culpable for war crimes committed in operations they had ordered but not directly led. Many observers believed that powerful Western countries worried that such standards might be applied to their own armed forces or politicians, and used their influence to turn the tide.

The suspicion that war-crimes tribunals are an alien imposition also afflicts the new Kosovo court. In fact the court is not a UN body. It is a tribunal set up under Kosovo law, with foreign judges, funded mostly by the EU and in response to allegations made in a Council of Europe report in 2011. (One was that several prisoners held by what was then the Kosovo Liberation Army were murdered for their organs.) Florina Duli, who runs the Kosovar Stability Initiative, a think-tank, says many of her compatriots are convinced that the new tribunal is a tool of “big countries and the European Union”. They think the threat of indictments will be used to blackmail Kosovar leaders to do what the Europeans want, such as keeping the EU-sponsored dialogue with Serbia going.

David Schwendiman, the prosecutor, concedes that the aims of the new tribunal are more modest than in decades past. His work may not deter fighters from committing crimes in Syria. Still, he sees a duty to build a body of law with which to try such criminals when the political will to do so returns. In the meantime, the tribunals “[help] people learn what happened, but not be consumed by it.” As an effort to record history, the Yugoslavia tribunal with its archive of millions of pages is an undisputed success. That, and the convictions it has achieved, says Mr Gordy, are “definitely better than nothing—and most conflicts get nothing.”

Written by Mika

13. januara 2017. at 22:32

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The world as seen by Donald Trump

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The world as seen by Donald Trump

‘Intrigue 2‘, Danielle Gutman Hopenblum, 2011


Making sense of Donald Trump’s foreign policy has not been easy. Unlike other presidents-to-be, he has not issued elaborate position papers on his favoured policies or delivered lengthy speeches. All we have to go by are some interviews and campaign appearances, and now his choices for top government positions. For some observers, this suggests an untutored or incoherent approach to foreign policy, derived largely from news headlines and his experiences as a globetrotting businessman. But look closely and distinct patterns begin to appear. Donald Trump has a clear-eyed view of the world and America’s place within in it — and in some respects his perceptions are far more attuned to world realities than those of well-regarded pundits and policymakers in Washington.

Spend any length of time in the nation’s capital and you come to view the world in a certain way. This is a universe of concentric circles stretching outward from the White House, with Canada, Britain and other English-speaking allies in the first ring; the remaining NATO powers plus Japan, South Korea and Israel in the second; long-term economic and military partners such as Taiwan, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia in the third, and so on. Outside this system of dependent relationships lie America’s rivals and adversaries: Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. For decades, US foreign policy has been aimed at bolstering links with and among the Washington-friendly countries, and trying to weaken and isolate the outsiders. At times this has meant going to war to protect those in the outer network of alliances lest those in the inner circles become exposed to danger.

Trump has not spent much time inside the Beltway and does not share the Washington-centric view of most US policymakers. He is a New York City businessman with interests around the world, wholly divorced from any structural conception of allies, friends and foes. In this, he is very much like Rex W Tillerson, chief executive officer of ExxonMobil and Trump’s choice as secretary of state. For both men, the world is a vast competitive jungle, with opportunities and perils everywhere, irrespective of any government’s presumed loyalty or hostility to Washington.

In the world as seen by Donald Trump, the United States is not the core of an extended family of dependent states to which it owes protection, but one of many power centres vying for wealth and advantage on an intensely competitive global chessboard. The aim of US foreign policy in this environment is to advance America’s interests above all else, and frustrate the designs of all those who seek advantage at its expense. In this competitive environment, where every government will be judged solely by what it can do to further America’s interests or impede its progress, Trump will use every tool at his disposal to reward partners and punish opponents. Willing collaborators can expect state visits to the White House, favourable trade deals and exemption from human rights considerations; adversaries will face high import tariffs, diplomatic isolation and, in case of extreme provocation, military action. What form such action might take cannot be foreseen, as Trump has said little on the subject, but it is likely to be of a muscular nature (presumably air and missile strikes against high-value targets).

To ensure that Washington is able to deliver on both sides of this equation, Trump has assembled a senior leadership team composed of people who know how to reward collaborators with lucrative deals (Tillerson as secretary of state), along with those who are experienced at wielding force against the nation’s enemies (General Michael T Flynn as national security adviser and General James N Mattis as secretary of defence). And to make sure his generals will be in a preponderant position if and when required to employ the military option, he has called for a massive expansion of the armed forces — and especially of the navy, the most suitable service for muscle-flexing and quick-strike operations (1).

The war against ISIS

How will all this play out in US relations with particular regions and countries? Let us look first at the Middle East and the war against ISIS (so-called Islamic State). From the very beginning, Trump made it clear that his top overseas objective would be to ‘destroy ISIS’ and crush other manifestations of ‘radical Islamic terrorism’. ‘Immediately after taking office,’ he declared in Philadelphia on 7 September 2016, ‘I will ask my generals to present to me a plan within 30 days to defeat and destroy ISIS’ (2).

To a considerable degree, the US war against ISIS is more a domestic than foreign policy issue: Trump’s stated determination to destroy the group derives largely from his supporters’ fear of its international reach and their loathing of militant Islam. In fighting back against ISIS, he promised, there will be no half-measures: every tool at the military’s disposal will be unleashed in a relentless campaign of annihilation; if family members and civilian associates of ISIS get trapped in the maelstrom, so be it.

But while the campaign against ISIS will be largely delegated to the military, it does raise significant foreign policy considerations. There is, to begin with, the question of who might be asked to assist in the final struggle against ISIS. Most noteworthy is Trump’s discussion of Vladimir Putin as a possible ally. ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we got together with Russia and knocked the hell out of ISIS?’ he said at a July 2016 rally in North Carolina (3). Trump has also hinted at a possible working relationship with Bashar al-Assad of Syria. ‘I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS,’ he said during the second debate with Hillary Clinton on 9 October. These countries’ leaders will, of course, expect some concessions in return — for Russia, the recognition of its annexation of Crimea and the lifting of sanctions; for Assad, the cessation of all aid to anti-government rebels.

Trump will also seek arrangements with other major players in the region. We should expect an early agreement with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan under which the Turks will increase their pressure on ISIS in return for diminished US support for the Kurdish militias in northern Syria — even though these groups have proved the most effective fighting force in the ground campaign against ISIS. Erdoğan was among the first foreign leaders to congratulate Trump after his election victory, and the two reportedly spoke of improved cooperation in anti-terror activities. It is also possible that Trump will agree to extradite the self-exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused by Ankara of the abortive coup of July 2016 (4).

Washington’s relations with Saudi Arabia could suffer as a result of an intensified US drive against ISIS. Its leadership, like that of Saudi Arabia, is largely composed of Sunnis — and many of those who are likely to suffer from any increase in US air strikes on ISIS positions are Sunni civilians. Yet many of the forces fighting ISIS on the ground are composed of Shias — whether Iranian-backed militias in Iraq or the Alawites and their allies in Syria. Inevitably, a victory by the militias and the survival of Assad will be viewed in Riyadh as a triumph for Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival in the struggle for domination of the greater Gulf region. It may prove difficult to repair the strained US relationship with Riyadh, especially with Trump’s insistence that Saudi Arabia should pay dearly for the protection he claims it receives from the US.

At first glance, the Iranians have much to fear from Trump’s ascension to the White House. Throughout his campaign, he called the Iran nuclear deal — officially, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — ‘the worst deal in history’ and promised to ‘dismantle it’ once in office. Flynn, at national security, is a particularly outspoken opponent of Iran and can be expected to maintain pressure on Trump to follow through on this promise (5). But the priority of defeating ISIS may take precedence over the drive to isolate Iran; Trump may see some advantage in a tacit understanding with Tehran about the urgency of fighting ISIS now and postponing other issues till later.

US-Russia honeymoon

If anything is likely to change during the early days of a Trump administration, it is the US’s relations with Russia. Trump spoke on several occasions of his admiration for Vladimir Putin, offering to meet him in an effort to improve bilateral relations. After Putin conferred with the president-elect by telephone, the Kremlin issued a statement indicating that the two leaders had agreed ‘to normalise relations and pursue constructive cooperation on the widest possible range of issues’ (6). Many observers also believe that he selected Tillerson as secretary of state in part because of his long-term ties with the Kremlin over energy, forged through elaborate joint ventures between Exxon and Russian firms in the Arctic and Sakhalin Island.

But it would be a mistake for Putin to assume that any honeymoon in Russian-American relations will prove lasting. As Trump has made very clear, his primary interest is to promote US interests above all else, and this will not allow for any arrangement that could be interpreted as surrendering America’s dominant position on the global chessboard. We cannot foresee at what point assertive Russian action in eastern Europe might test that stance, but Trump will not allow the US to be branded as indecisive or weak-willed in any such confrontation. Covert Russian meddling in the Baltic or Balkan states might not arouse his ire, but an overt assault on a US ally would no doubt provoke a harsh response.

A mural in Vilnius, Lithuania, in May 2016 shows Donald Trump kissing Vladimir Putin.

Lithuanians fear Trump will ignore their security concerns regarding Russia. Petras Malukas / AFP / Getty

The Putin regime must also worry about Trump’s intent to reinvigorate the US military. While many of his proposals, such as a major expansion of the navy, appear aimed primarily at China, some will prove discomfiting to Russia. These include Trump’s call for the modernisation of the US strategic bomber fleet and the acquisition of a ’state-of-the art missile defence system’. While threatening to China, these initiatives would prove especially worrisome for Russia given its heavy reliance on nuclear weapons to deter military action by the West. Putin himself expressed concern over these proposals in his annual state-of-the-nation address on 1 December: ‘I would like to emphasise that attempts to break strategic parity are extremely dangerous and can lead to a global catastrophe,’ he declared (7).

Throughout his campaign, Trump berated the Chinese for employing unfair trade practices against the US and for disrespecting President Obama through their brazen base-building activities in the South China Sea. ‘China’s toying with us … when they’re building in the South China Sea,’ he told the New York Times on 26 March. ‘They have no respect for our country and they have no respect for our president.’

The China quandary

Trump foresees a more contentious relationship with Beijing and seeks to push back against what he views as China’s exploitative and disrespectful stance towards the US. Will this lead to a wholly antagonistic relationship, or even military conflict? Asked if he would use force to dislodge the Chinese from their bases in the South China Sea, Trump answered: ‘Perhaps … but we have great economic power over China … the power of trade.’ Without elaborating, he indicated that he prefers to use tariffs and other trade mechanisms to alter China’s behaviour. Trump’s telephone call with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan on 1 December — the first known conversation between a US president or president-elect with a Taiwanese leader since before the US broke diplomatic relations with the island in 1979 — can be viewed in the same way, as a warning of tougher measures to come if China does not acquiesce to US preferences. Left unsaid, but clearly understood by Chinese leaders, is the prospect of further shocks: the recognition of Taiwan, say, or military strikes against Chinese installations in the South China Sea.

China’s toying with us when they’re building in the South China Sea. They have no respect for our country and they have no respect for our president Donald Trump

Nevertheless, Trump understands that on certain key issues he must secure Chinese assistance. This is especially true of the threat posed by North Korea — one of the most pressing national security issues he will face on assuming office. Though cut off from most of the world, the North Koreans have apparently succeeded in expanding their nuclear arsenal and developing ballistic missiles capable of striking Japan and US territories in the Pacific. The Chinese appear fearful of regime collapse — possibly leading to a flood of desperate refugees into northern China and the creation of a united Korea under US tutelage — and have provided the country with essential material support.

Chinese and US sailors moor a frigate in San Diego during a Chinese navy visit to California in December 2016

Bill Wechter / AFP / Getty

Trump recognises that if he is to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programme, he will need a Chinese promise to substantially reduce trade with North Korea. ‘China should solve that problem for us,’ he declared in the first debate with Clinton. But this, of course, will entail complex negotiations with Beijing, and there will have to be a trade-off. While expecting a retreat by China in some areas that matter to him, such as trade, he fully understands that he will need Beijing’s cooperation in other areas of concern, and will have to be prepared to make concessions of his own.

Europe and NATO

But it is in Trump’s likely approach to Europe and the NATO alliance that the disjunction between his beliefs and those of his predecessors is especially evident. Whereas all previous American presidents viewed NATO as the cornerstone of US security policy and saw Europe as a bulwark of the liberal world order, Trump holds no such convictions. As far as he is concerned, the Atlantic Alliance has been missing in action in the most important struggle of this time — the war against radical Islamic terrorism. And Europe, as a collective entity, lacks the executive capacity to advance vital US interests, and so deserves less attention than other more assertive powers, such as Russia and China.

In a telephone conversation with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg on 18 November, Trump confirmed his belief in the ‘enduring importance’ of the alliance; since then, however, he has offered no other assurances of his commitment, and none of his senior military appointments suggest an emphasis on the European theatre of operations. Indeed, his interest in NATO appears to boil down to just two basic propositions: alliance members must pay more for the common defence and NATO must participate more vigorously in the war against ISIS. On all other major issues, such as the defence of the ‘eastern flank’ against potential Russian assault, he has displayed very little concern — although, as noted, he is bound to respond forcefully to any move by Moscow that appears to impugn US honour and resolve.

Europe at this moment is a secondary site of contention on the global chessboard. Unless it intersects with key US interests, it is likely to be ignored. And this, of course, fits with the larger pattern of Trump’s foreign policy: America comes first, everyone else matters only to the extent that they are an asset or hindrance to accomplishing fundamental US objectives.

Written by Mika

9. januara 2017. at 09:37

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Will Trump ease pressure on Serbia over Kosovo?

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Will Trump ease pressure on Serbia over Kosovo? – – on B92.net

The Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, that started in 2013 with the signing of the Brussels agreement, is still far from over, and will continue this year as well.

Source: B92 Monday, January 2, 2017 | 09:53

Experts assess that the Trump administration could ease the pressure on Belgrade.

Monarchies, socialist, one party-states, the war-time 1990s, followed by two decades of transition, have not brought Serbs and Albanians closer together over the past 100 years.

The Brussels dialogue has produced some results, but the main question for Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, ahead of the continuation of the Kosovo talks – the Community of Serb Municipalities – remains a dead letter.

"In the first phase, I think the Albanian side will insist on energy issues, and try to sabotage the whole story about the Community of Serb Municipalities," says political analyst Dragomir Andjelkovic, and adds:

"Then again, I believe Belgrade will now dig in its heels and make no new concessions until the issue of the Community has been solved."

But can Belgrade dig in its heels? Until recently, such a move could only be followed by pressure from Washington – but the arrival of Donald Trump’s people to the White House points out to a different approach.

"The world has changed with Donald Trump, of course relations in the Balkans will change too," says Jelena Milic, who heads of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies NGO.

"While (U.S. State Department official) Philip Riker was there, and during (former EU foreign policy chief) Catherine Ashton, things were happening. Now, with the increased Russian influence in the Balkans I’m afraid we will witness an ever more intensive advocacy in favor of Kosovo’s partition," she says.

The partition of Kosovo was officially on the table during the Vienna talks, held before the 2008 unilaterally declared independence of the southern Serbian province.

"Undoubtedly, America and Russia will be looking for a model to universally solve territorial disputes in the coming years – from Abkhaza, to the Balkans," say Andjelkovic.

"Those who have some sort of entity of their own, will be able to count on striking lasting deals," he noted.

On the other hand, Milic thinks that the EU could influence its "reluctant" members when it comes to recognizing Kosovo.

"Recognition of Kosovo by some EU and above all, NATO members, I think that’s what can be expected in 2017," she said.

The self-proclaimed independence of Kosovo has been recognized by 23 out of EU’s 28 members, while Pristina has failed to join the UN due to Russia’s and China’s blockade.

Written by Mika

3. januara 2017. at 09:20

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