Kosovo and Taiwan eye an alliance of outsiders

The following article was published on the Foreign Policy website today:

Nowhere is Washington held in higher esteem than in the small Balkan nation of Kosovo. On Bill Clinton Boulevard in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, a statue of the former U.S. president waves cheerily to passersby. Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright—who in 1999 pushed for U.S. intervention against Serbia in the Kosovo War—is honored with a small plaza and bust near Pristina’s city center.

But the love is faltering. On April 23, Kosovo held elections in four majority-Serb municipalities in the north of the country. Pristina’s refusal to address calls for greater autonomy in these districts led to a Serb boycott of the elections, leaving turnout at around 3.5 percent. Unopposed, the Albanian candidates were voted in. Violent protests ensued in late May, when those candidates assumed the mayorships of the municipalities. Serb protesters attacked Kosovar police and NATO peacekeepers, and dozens were injured on each side. Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti branded the protesters a “fascist militia” and blamed Serbia and its populist President Aleksandar Vucic for orchestrating the boycott and unrest.

As a result of its displeasure with Kurti’s handling of the situation, Washington took a series of punitive measures, including excluding Kosovo from Defender 23, NATO’s largest-ever air drill, which ran for two months from the eve of the elections. A temporary freeze by Washington on diplomacy was reported, and the U.S. ambassador in Pristina, Jeffrey Hovenier, warned that enthusiasm for supporting Kosovo’s ascension to NATO and the United Nations had waned.

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