Ongoing Tensions Between Serbia and Kosovo
On Saturday, Nov. 10, Serbia began the largest military exercise in the country’s history, with 8,000 soldiers participating in the military drills. These drills were carried out 100 years after the end of World War I, for which Serbia is often held responsible for starting, due to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914.
These military drills have been called “The Century of Winners” and involved 100 battle tanks and fighter jets given to Serbia from Russia. The maneuvers were broadcasted on Serbian national TV.
Kosovo recently announced that it plans to transform the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) into an army, which would violate its constitution. Kosovo’s decision to establish an army has angered both Serbia and Serbs living in Kosovo. NATO has also expressed hesitations about the decision since it leads the peacekeeping troops in Kosovo.
There has been increasing tension between Serbia and Kosovo as each country has accused the other of hindering the peace established by the NATO intervention that ended the war in 1998-99. They are also both former territories of Yugoslavia, which split into numerous independent countries during the wars that took place in the 1990s. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but Serbia’s capital Belgrade does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state.
Even though the United States and most of the countries in the European Union recognize Kosovo as an independent state, it is not a member of the United Nations because Russia and China opposed its independence.
Serbia is receiving support from its ally, Russia, and has been increasing its military readiness to manifest its might. The president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, attended some of the exercises and claimed that Serbia will continue to increase its military prowess by adopting new equipment such as helicopters, battle tanks from Russia, and drones from China.
There have been talks between Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci and President Vucic since the summer. They discussed possibility of redrawing borders and raised fear of a revival of the war that took place in the area during the 1990s. President Thaci claimed that if borders are redrawn, Kosovo should remain ethnically diverse and that the new borders should not be drawn according to ethnic lines.
Both Serbia and Kosovo participated in these talks with a hope to join the EU.