As we approach next Tuesday, the date of the US presidential election, in our southern neighborhood, the Balkans, has also shifted to a higher degree of opportunity-seeking and positioning. U.S. foreign policy has traditionally been characterized by continuity, with strategic interests not changing simply because a new president can take over the baton. However, the style, emphases and tactics are yes, and there is nothing new in that. Forty years ago, after Democrat Jimmy Carter’s seemingly smoother performance with Moscow, Ronald Reagan’s loud cowboy style, his Star Wars plans, his mention of the “evil empire” changed the world political climate quite a bit. But there was really no difference between the two presidents in their anti-communist stance, which saw the Soviet Union as a threat.
Now there is an analyst who says: He hadn’t had such a stake since 1992 an American presidential election for the Balkans like the current one. At the time, Republicans wary of military intervention in the Balkans were replaced by more militant Democrats on the issue, who then bombed Belgrade and Banja Luka. Although Serbian politics also received cold and warmth from Republicans as they were in power as they prepared for Kosovo’s independence in Washington, yet: in the Balkans now, the election of Joe Biden and the return of Democrats would hurt Belgrade and Banja Luka, the Bosnian Serbs. They no longer wanted to see Hillary Clinton very much as president in 2016, so they loudly welcomed Donald Trump’s election.
Even now, in his re-election, they see hope for a more favorable political wind. The former Serbian Foreign Minister, Ivica Dačić, who has now become the Speaker of the Belgrade Legislature, made no secret of this. He has made it clear on several occasions that he believes it would be better for Serbian interests if the current US president were given a second term. The cunning and experienced politician leads the Serbian Socialist Party, but was once known as a spokesman for Slobodan Milošević’s party. He was one of the political experts in Belgrade who criticized these statements, as they could put Serbia in an awkward position if Biden were elected. But a politician of this caliber is probably acting consciously.
In America, the number of potentially mobilizable voters with (also) Serbian identities is difficult to pinpoint, but the order of 200-300 thousand is certain. And Serbian estimates suggest that there are likely to be more people who can heed the message of a Serbian foreign minister, only some of whom are reluctant to be on ethnic lists. It may be important to
Many believe that Bosniaks, Albanians and Montenegrin independence parties would also benefit from a return to the White House that would take a stronger stand against Serbian nationalist rhetoric. It is not as if the Obama administration (2009–17) could have done much against the militant outbursts of Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, the threat of an independence referendum and the actual denunciation of the Dayton Peace Agreement (1995). Nor is it true that the Trump government would have given Serbian nationalism substantially more space.
Dodik remained on the U.S. blacklist, and in 2018, the State Department in Washington, D.C., even put one of its close associates, Nikola Špirić, to do so. The Trumps, on the other hand, tactically followed a different direction; the Republicans sought to be more fair and friendly towards Belgrade in order to stop, or at least slow down, the growing influence of the Russians.
The Albanians appear to be increasingly behind Biden at the end of the campaign. Former Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti had already asked the Albanian community in America in a video message in mid-October to cast his vote for the Democratic Party candidate. This is apparently due to the fact that Kurti’s spring government is said to have been overthrown at American suggestion right in the middle of the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic. Kurti’s party, Self-Determination, had had trouble with the Americans several times before, regardless of party affiliation, as his radical, left-nationalist, street-confrontational character had difficulty reconciling himself with the style and goals of American diplomacy.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in 2016 enthusiastically supported Hillary Clinton in public. That’s why they, too, have received a lot of criticism, just as Kurti has been immediately criticized in American Albanian discussion forums in recent days. So far, Thaçi and Rama seem to consider listening more wiser based on the experience of 2016, but not everyone in the non-political environment thinks so.
Dua Lipa, a British pop diva of Kosovo Albanian descent who was almost a teenager four years ago, also called on her fans to support Biden. The direct influence of a singer with a distinct dual identity on politics is obviously modest, but she is an extremely popular star, views of some of your songs on YouTube is over two billion (!). And more than 50 million people are following it on Instagram photo sharing.
But Lipa’s political attempts so far have not been very successful, with the defeated British Labor Party in December last year and Bernie Sanders, a heavily left-wing Democratic presidential candidate aspirant, earlier this year.
The Albanian diaspora, within which the number of eligible voters is estimated at 300,000, is concentrated predominantly on the East Coast in the United States. One city with at least sixty thousand people living in New York is concentrated here in the Bronx. Hence the Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel, who has been the most persistent lobbyist of Kosovo Albanians on the Capitol since the late 1980s. (This year, however, Engel lost the Democratic pre-election.) There are plenty of graduates among New Generation Albanians in New York, and nearly two thousand have an annual income of at least $ 100,000, which also means social prestige. In second place is Massachussets, but there are also many in Michigan.
Biden also consciously drives for Albanian and Bosnian voters. In order to win them, he also sent an open letter promising a more balanced policy towards Kosovo than Trump and believing in the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This means suppressing Serbian nationalist ambitions and the Russian subversive activity behind them. Proponents of the State Department’s classic line have also welcomed this: a number of former ambassadors from Pristina and Sarajevo support Biden’s planned Balkan foreign policy.
Kosovo’s support for the US administration would be vital, without which it would fall into a vacuum in international relations. In recent weeks, news has surfaced that Thaçi’s successor, who will resign in February, will be Kosovo’s ambassador to Washington so far, building excellent ties with U.S. political circles. Vlora Çitaku’s name does not say much to the Hungarian public, but even more so in her country: before her diplomatic career, she was Minister of EU Integration and was considered one of the most promising women politicians.