How Albin Kurti turns into a complex figure in American diplomacy


Albin Kurti, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, has managed to achieve something remarkable in American politics: he has united both Democrats and Republicans. However, this unity isn’t due to any positive attributes they see in him, but rather their shared perception of him as a stubborn and sometimes reckless politician who has hindered the joint US-European efforts to secure a lasting peace between Kosovo and Serbia.

Washington has squarely blamed Kurti for the recent outbreak of violence between Kosovo authorities and Serb-majority communities in the north of the country. Despite numerous attempts to rein him in with public criticism, the situation has only worsened. The conflict revolves around the future status of Serbian areas in North Kosovo and Pristina’s demand for Belgrade to acknowledge its sovereignty. Recent events include Serbia arresting three Kosovar border guards and Kosovo closing the main crossing to Serbian trucks.

Kurti’s critics accuse him of manufacturing the crisis by sending paramilitary police units into Serbian communities and using force in May to install Kosovar Albanian mayors across the region after Serbs boycotted local elections.

Talking to Voice of America, Christopher Hill, the US ambassador to Serbia, expressed doubts about Kurti’s reliability as a partner, stating, “We have some very fundamental issues with him on whether we can count on him as a partner”. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also publicly condemned the actions of the Kosovo government, further emphasizing the concerns about Kurti’s leadership.

Even Richard Grenell, who held senior foreign policy roles during the Trump administration, including as a special envoy for peace negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo, criticized Kurti on Twitter, accusing him of giving the middle finger to Biden and the Europeans.

This unusual alignment of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans is notable. Kosovo has been a significant project for Democratic leaders since former President Bill Clinton led the 1999 NATO campaign against Slobodan Milošević, making it a symbol of successful American nation-building.

Furthermore, Christopher Hill, a respected diplomat known for his involvement in the Dayton Accords, suggested that Belgrade was not solely responsible for the escalation of the conflict, surprising many with this stance.

Even the European Union, which has been overseeing talks to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo as a prerequisite for EU membership, has lost patience with Kurti, suspending high-level visits and financial cooperation with Kosovo.

Kurti, however, remains defiant, placing the blame on Serbian President Alexander Vučić for refusing to recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty and coming to terms with Serbia’s wartime past. Kurti insists he is acting on principle, not out of anger.

He accuses Vučić of supporting a “fascist militia” in North Kosovo that has targeted Kosovar Albanian journalists and international peacekeepers. While Vučić is not without criticism, especially regarding his authoritarian rule, Serbia remains a significant regional power, and the U.S. and EU are keen on preventing it from drifting further into Russia’s sphere of influence.

Kosovo Serbs consider Vučić their protector, and their discontent with Kurti’s government predates Vučić’s call to boycott the elections. Their main concerns revolve around the presence of heavily armed paramilitary units, known as “special police,” dispatched by Kurti in 2021, which they view as an occupying force. Additionally, the local Serb communities have reservations about integrating into Kosovar society, citing differences in public services and treatment of their language and culture.

These localized concerns are often overlooked in international negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo, a situation that local observers find frustrating. The EU’s decade-long effort to negotiate peace between the two nations has had its share of setbacks, including a recent breakdown in negotiations, primarily attributed to Kurti’s actions.

As the US and Europe grapple with other global challenges, they are eager to resolve the Kosovo-Serbia conflict swiftly, hence their efforts to pressure Kurti into de-escalation. Regardless of whether Kurti deserves all the criticism, the ongoing strife in Kosovo underscores the failures of the West in the region and the costs of allowing conflicts to persist for extended periods.


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