The Failures of Potemkin Diplomacy

From The American Conservative:

The Trump administration recently touted an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo that has proven to be much less than it appeared. Majda Ruge explains:

Despite the unpredictability that surrounded the negotiations, one thing was clear from the start about the much-hyped U.S. effort to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo: It would be light on substance and heavy on publicity.

So it came as no big surprise that the result – two separate documents signed by each party individually – reflected the superficiality and lack of planning involved. Essentially a restatement of things already agreed between Kosovo and Serbia, the primary purpose of Friday’s “deal” was not to advance dialogue but to advance Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.

Like the Israel/UAE deal that preceded it, the one between Serbia and Kosovo has been celebrated by the White House as “historic” and a significant breakthrough, and much like that other deal it is not nearly as significant as the hype would suggest. The portion of the agreement that concerned their bilateral relations contained provisions that both governments had previously committed to, and even that part is on very shaky ground because the two governments signed separate documents. They had to do this because of the ongoing dispute over Kosovo’s status, since Vucic did not want to give the impression that he was recognizing Kosovo’s independence.

Some of the major pieces of the agreement are already falling part, and it seems unlikely that any of it will be approved by Kosovo’s parliament. The former prime minister of Kosovo denounced the agreement in very strong terms yesterday:

Kurti is understandably opposed to this agreement because it was the end result of US machinations that led to the fall of his government. Ric Grenell pressured Kosovo to force a deal, and Kurti objected to his strong-arm tactics. Kurti’s domestic opponents organized against him with US encouragement, and that brought down his government. In a struggle between a corrupt establishment and a popular challenger, the US sided with the corrupt:

The toppling of Kurti’s government, when the public sought a common front against the coronavirus, is again seen as proof that the old guard will get together to protect their ill-gained profits. Unfortunately, the US is seen as having sided with the kleptocrats who are less likely than Kurti to question Washington’s policies on solving the Serbia-Kosovo stalemate.

Given Kurti’s intense opposition to the agreement and his popularity in the country, it seems unlikely that this deal will be enacted. The Trump administration’s practice of dictating terms to other states seems to have backfired once again.

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