Nato forces have said they are “prepared to intervene” amid rising tensions between Kosovo and Serbia. Kosovo police have closed two border crossings after local Serbs blocked roads and fired shots at cops in protest.
The government of Kosovo, a partially recognised state in the Balkans, eastern Europe, has now backed off—for now. It has been pushing for ethnic Serbs to use Kosovan number plates as opposed to Serbian issued ones. Serbs claim this would mean them recognising the majority Albanian state of Kosovo as legitimate.
The unrest is a result of the Balkans and Kosovo’s turbulent history. Kosovo was an autonomous territory of Serbia—then part of the federal republic of Yugoslavia. It had mostly been a part of Albania during the Second World War.
Inter-ethnic and religious tensions were continuously high with majority Muslim Kosovans being repressed by the state. Protests for autonomy in the early 1980s organised by Albanian students were crushed by the state.
Kosovo was swept up in the wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990s as the West sought to pose as friends of oppressed people. In 1989 Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic reduced Kosovo’s special autonomous status and repressed those who resisted. Seizing the opportunity, Nato—led by Labour’s Tony Blair—launched a vicious bombing campaign lasting 78 days against Serbia.
For Milosevic, whipping up Serbian nationalism was useful as workers across Yugoslavia moved to fight their rulers and bosses over austerity. His nationalism was a substitute for the former officially “communist” ideology. Milosevic’s move was matched by leaders of other groups such as Franjo Tudjman, who became president of Croatia. Encouraged by Germany, Tudjman declared independence from Yugoslavia.
This nationalist dynamic led to a horrific civil war in the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia, which was divided between Serbs, Croats and Muslims. From 1992 to 1995, tens of thousands were killed and at least 2 million displaced. Eventually Serbia was defeated and Kosovo became a United Nations protectorate.
It was one of the key moments that convinced the Russian ruling class that the West was determined to push eastwards. And to institute “regime change” against its opponents. Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and was wholly a vassal state of the Western powers with deep pools of poverty.
Imperialist powers such as Russia, China, the European Union and the United States have continuously sought to use the Serb-Kosovo conflict. They want to expand their influence among the former Yugoslav countries. In May this year German Chancellor Olaf Scholz appealed to Kosovo to resolve its tensions with Serbia in order that “all the western Balkans” can join the European Union.
It was part of the manoeuvres around the Ukraine war. There are nearly 4,000 Nato troops in Kosovo with the power to escalate the currently small-scale conflict to an all-out war. As seen in the example of Ukraine, Nato escalation would be deadly.
The determination to organise is growing
Debt pushes Bangladesh to the IMF
A legacy of US occupation
Almost 60 percent backed abortion rights