Vladimir Putin claims that defending ethnic Russians justifies army action towards Ukraine. Putin’s concern for Ukraine’s Russian minority is bombastic. His larger international aim is to confront NATO and undermine US leadership to redeem the Russian Empire’s past glory.
The US have to be prepared for Russian incitement on multiple fronts. Whereas President Joe Biden is concentrated on Ukraine, another menace is looming in the Western Balkans. Serbia, appearing as Russia’s proxy, is intensifying efforts to destabilize Kosovo, a staunchly pro-American nation that aspires to membership in NATO and the European Union. Putin calculates that an escalation of lethal violence in Southeast Europe would distract the Biden administration from a resolute response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Ukraine is a tinderbox. More than 120,000 Russian troops have massed on Ukraine’s japanese border, including snipers, tanks, and artillery. It was only seven years ago that Russia invaded and occupied Crimea, part of a sovereign and unbiased Ukraine, claiming to guard ethnic Russians.
The Russia-Ukraine border is a dangerous flash-point for conflict escalation. When Putin and US President Joe Biden met by way of teleconference on December 7, Putin demanded ensures that Ukraine would by no means be a part of NATO or permit NATO infrastructure on its soil. Biden made no such guarantee. Ukraine is a sovereign and unbiased state, which makes selections for itself.
Putin pursues a bellicose strategy to Ukraine, figuring out that battle ill-serves Russia with the worldwide group. He's catering to a home Russian viewers, which believes that Ukraine is part of Russia and must be disciplined for breaking away from the motherland.
While the Biden administration is concentrated on Ukraine, an analogous state of affairs is unfolding in the border between Serbia and Kosovo. During the last decade, Russia and Serbia have drastically expanded their army cooperation. Serbia doubled its protection finances during the last three years to $1.5 billion. That’s a lot of money to spend when there isn't any exterior menace.
Serbia is seemingly getting ready for struggle, spending lavishly on refined offensive weapons. It purchased MIG warplanes, T-72 tanks and other armor from Russia. Serbia and Russia- established a “Humanitarian Middle” in Nis about 100 km from the Kosovo border. The bottom is a hub for intelligence operations and a staging ground for particular operations, together with Russian mercenaries.
In Ukraine, Russia deployed “little green men”, operating undercover without army insignias. Similarly, Russian agents are current in north Kosovo. Russia’s intelligence operations involve in depth cyber operations and malign affect operations aiming to radicalize Kosovo Serbs.
The newest crisis in Kosovo-Serbia relations was instigated by Serbia in September 2021. The Authorities of Kosovo imposed reciprocity measures on car license plates with Serbia. In response, Serbia’s President Aleksander Vucic deployed army near the border with Kosovo. Tensions have been exacerbated by MIG-29s skirting Kosovo’s airspace.
Belgrade additionally intensified its help for the Republika Srpska, a separatist entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Dayton Agreement offered ample arrangements for self-rule by Bosnian Serbs. Something more would culminate in Bosnia’s fragmentation, which the EU and US strongly oppose.
Chapter 35 in Serbia’s EU accession talks require mutual recognition and normalization of relations with Kosovo. Sustaining Chapter 35 is the EU’s biggest leverage over Serbia, by setting strict circumstances on Serbia’s European prospects. Vucic is unwilling to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence, so Serbia’s EU aspirations are blocked. Whereas Vucic says he'll abandon EU membership and search Eurasian partnerships with Russia and China, this declare is disingenuous. He needs to reorient Kosovo-Serbia talks by scary a flare-up.
Putin cited the “Kosovo precedent” to justify Russia’s occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia. Even Putin’s new greatest good friend, Xi Jinping, opposes international recognition for Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria, which might set a dangerous precedent for elements of China chafing underneath Xi’s authoritarian rule. Outdoors Belarus, there isn't any urge for food within the international group for rubber stamping Putin’s occupation of territories in Georgia.
Echoing Putin’s remarks on Ukraine, Vucic threatened to intervene militarily in Kosovo with a purpose to “shield the undefended Serbian population”. Russia’s Ambassador to Serbia, Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, selected this toxic time to examine Serbia’s army corps, which have been in a state of elevated fight readiness. His action was a press release of Russian–Serbian solidarity towards Kosovo.
NATO have to be ready for the likelihood that Serbia, in cooperation with Russia, may instigate a disaster in the northern part of Kosovo, opening a proxy armed conflict. This state of affairs mirrors Russia’s strategy in Ukraine’s japanese Donbass area.
Russia and Serbia are testing the dedication of NATO and the US to allies and partners. Putin believes that concurrent “warfare theatres” in Ukraine and Kosovo would overextend NATO and check Washington’s dedication. Failure to defend Kosovo would open the door for a wider European struggle, affecting the current world order.
The legendary US diplomat, Richard C. Holbrooke, stated of Serbia’s ex-President Slobodan Milosevic: “[He] tries to unravel a problem by making a much bigger one.” The identical could be stated of Putin’s coverage in Russia’s close to abroad and the Balkans.
Putin doesn't need a live-fire confrontation with the US within the Black Sea. Nor does he need the US to implement biting sanctions. Biden warned Putin that the US was prepared to implement a package deal of diplomatic and economic reprisals during their current teleconference. Biden would terminate Nord Stream-2, a essential source of revenue to Russia selling pure fuel in Europe in the event of an assault on Ukraine.
Some EU members would not have the appetite for joining sanctions on Russia. They're concerned that Russia might retaliate by curtailing the distribution of its natural fuel to shoppers in Europe. The EU needs to steer its personal course, however it won't let the US implement sanctions by itself. Transatlantic cooperation is best on the subject of sanctions aimed toward addressing Russian aggression.
Putin thinks he can avoid a serious confrontation with the US over Ukraine by making a crisis between Serbia and Kosovo. Violence in Kosovo would embroil the US and troops from NATO nations which are based mostly in Kosovo. An assault might provoke Albania to intervene. The North Atlantic Council might activate Article 5 of the North Atlantic Alliance charter. “An assault on any NATO ally can be thought-about an attack towards all members of the Alliance”, which might take the required actions to help.
Putin believes that: “The breakup of the Soviet Union was the best geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.” Soviet revisionism and anti-Americanism are defining traits of Putin’s imperial rule.