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US Interests in Balkans Discussed at Washington Forum - 2002-11-08


The question of U.S. vital interests in the Balkans was discussed Thursday at a forum in Washington sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center. The discussion focused on the likely future of Kosovo.

Damijan de Drnjevic-Miskovic, a Serb who edits a foreign policy magazine, believes that with the Republican party regaining control of the Senate U.S. relations with Serbia will improve. He predicts swift approval of normal trade relations between the two countries now that certain Democrats who were notably cool towards Serbia will have less power.

Another speaker, John Hulsman, of the pro-Republican Heritage Foundation, suggested that the Bush administration wants to reduce the large U.S. presence in the Balkans it inherited from the Clinton administration. The United States has several thousand peacekeeping troops in both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. Mr. Hulsman himself believes the United States has no vital interests in the Balkans. Solutions to unresolved border and other questions should be put forward within the region, with the United States merely facilitating discussions between former adversaries. "To say [for example], what will you put up with and why, in terms of boundary changes and population? Anything? Nothing? And why? And if you got things back in return how would react to that? It would be the carrot and stick approach. And I think the United States can facilitate that. But again, all solutions must be indigenous," said John Hulsman.

Mr. Krnjevic-Miskovic believes Serbs might drop their opposition to independence for (the Albanian populated Serbian province of) Kosovo if the province's borders are modified. "So if there is a way to divide Kosovo along civilizational lines where you draw a really funny border that is guaranteed by the international community, that essentially partitions the province," he said. "And the Serbs get in terms of territory, I don't know, say 10 or 15 percent, that incorporates the northern parts where most of the Serbs are. And more importantly includes some of those historical markers that are important to them. And in exchange for that the Albanians get independence, in which they get to control for the rest of eternity a good 85 percent of the land and all the major population centers and so on, that seems to be to me the most rational, reasonable and maybe even emotional way to deal with this problem."

Mr. Krnjevic-Miskovic believes U.S. interests in the Balkans are limited to preventing the region from becoming either a bastion of Muslim fundamentalism or a source of weapons exports. He regards recent revelations of Serbian arms shipments to Iraq as extremely serious. But he believes the authorities in Belgrade are determined to eliminate the illicit arms trade and will vigorously prosecute those responsible.

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