More Balkan trou­ble brew­ing in re­gion fa­mous for mis­chief

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY TODD WOOD

As the old say­ing goes, his­tory may not re­peat it­self — but it sure does rhyme. We are see­ing this sce­nario play it­self out in the Balkans. The re­gion is a flash point, a world con­flict wait­ing to hap­pen. Con­sider the charges traded by Al­ba­nia and Ser­bia over ac­ces­sion to the Euro­pean Union. As one re­porter from the re­gional news ser­vice Tsarizm stated, it is ob­vi­ous there is an im­posed peace in the Balkans, a peace that right now looks very frag­ile.

Every­one knows about the as­sas­si­na­tion of Arch­duke Franz Fer­di­nand by a Ser­bian as­sas­sin in Sara­jevo, which touched off World War I. As Rus­sia re­asserts it­self in geopo­lit­i­cal af­fairs, steered by the con­sum­mate states­man Vladimir Putin, the mem­ory of the bomb­ing of Ser­bian forces in the Balkan wars of the 1990s is still fresh in the mem­ory of many Rus­sians.

To this day, if an Amer­i­can goes to a din­ner party in Moscow, the sub­ject of Ser­bia will even­tu­ally come up. Moscow’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to reap­pear on the geopo­lit­i­cal scene can be traced to Rus­sian feel­ings of im­po­tence in the face of NATO airstrikes against their long-term Slavic ally three decades ago.

The ten­sions be­tween Ser­bia and Kosovo, which Bel­grade still sees as a break­away part of the coun­try, have been back in the news lately. Ser­bia wanted to send a train into Kosovo with “Kosovo is Ser­bia” writ­ten all over the out­side in mul­ti­ple lan­guages. The eth­nic ha­treds and clash­ing ter­ri­to­rial claims are still there, smol­der­ing be­neath the agree­ments and the im­posed peace, ready to re­assert them­selves at any time.

Last week, Al­ba­nian Prime Min­is­ter Edi Rama an­gered Ser­bia by hint­ing at a greater Al­ba­nian state from Tirana to Kosovo. Many Al­ba­ni­ans brushed it off as just rhetoric de­signed to pres­sure for the EU to speed up the ac­ces­sion process for cer­tain Balkan states. How­ever, Ser­bia took it se­ri­ously, as a Freudian slip re­veal­ing the true Al­ba­nian agenda.

“If I said that all Serbs should live in one state, I would be hanged from a flag­pole in Brus­sels,” said the Ser­bian Prime Min­is­ter Alek­san­dar Vu­cic.

The cal­dron of con­flicts of in­ter­est has a re­li­gious as­pect that is in­te­gral to un­der­stand­ing the ten­sion. The mas­sive in­flux of Mus­lim refugees into Europe has height­ened the sense of cri­sis. Ser­bia and Rus­sia are po­si­tion­ing them­selves as the pro­tec­tors of the Or­tho­dox faith, us­ing the church to jus­tify a con­quest doc­trine to com­bat Is­lamic forces which have at­tempted to do the same.

Mace­do­nia and Mon­tene­gro also have large eth­nic Al­ba­nian pop­u­la­tions. The ac­ces­sion of th­ese for­mer Yu­gosla­vian states into NATO has an­gered Mr. Putin. The Krem­lin has en­cour­aged in­sta­bil­ity in the Balkans, at­tempt­ing to lure the coun­tries for the re­gion away from the EU and back into Moscow’s or­bit.

So once again, you have the great pow­ers of the world jock­ey­ing for in­flu­ence in this tiny cor­ner of Europe. The Euro­pean Union is try­ing to keep its great glob­al­ist ex­per­i­ment alive. Moscow is try­ing to recre­ate buf­fer zones and spheres of in­flu­ence on its bor­ders. The U.S. State De­part­ment is in­volved, with old Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion diplo­mats balk­ing at the new Trump “Amer­ica First” doc­trine and push­ing the open bor­der agenda of lib­eral bil­lion­aire Ge­orge Soros through­out the re­gion.

With the world fo­cused on the North Korean threat, the Mid­dle East mess and Bei­jing’s ag­gres­sive be­hav­ior in the South China Sea, global lead­ers will be wise to keep an eye on this no­to­ri­ously volatile cor­ner of the Earth.

● L. Todd Wood is a for­mer spe­cial op­er­a­tions he­li­copter pi­lot and Wall Street debt trader, and has con­trib­uted to Fox Busi­ness, The Moscow Times, Na­tional Re­view, the New York Post and many other pub­li­ca­tions. He can be reached through his web­site, LTod­

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