Important events shaping the new geopolitical landscape

By Dr. Selim Ibraimi- The siege of cities in Southeast Europe has a long history, which in the Middle Ages was mainly about religious divisions and ambitions to conquer new territories in the name of religion.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, ethnic divisions fueled new wars and conflicts, so it is no coincidence that the governments of the Balkans currently are spreading echoes of new interstate disputes. During the 14th and 15th centuries, when the Ottoman Empire was at the height of its expansion, the Balkans were involved in “a cycle of territorial fights with continuous military campaigns that simultaneously shaped the geopolitical landscape of the region”.

Since city sieges were part of the military plans of the principalities and empires of the time, the “Siege of Smedereva” (1459) and “Siege of Scutari” (1478) are the two most important cases of our analysis. The wars in a certain geographical area indicated that conflicts would arise in the future between the states and peoples in the Balkans. The states that had gained autonomy from the Ottoman Empire during the 19th and 20th centuries were later transformed into states that promoted policies of cleansing and military sieges of settlements with other ethnicities and religions. It is estimated that the events that led to the “Siege of Scutari” and the “Siege of Smederevo” were the result of the change of alliances and rivalries between the regional powers at the time. Why is it important to break down these historical cases?

Because the breakdown of historical dynamics is of great importance for today’s geopolitical realities of changing alliances, and the tendencies of governments to undertake actions of occupying areas of interest. The tactics used by states to acquire strategically important lands in the Balkans simultaneously reveal military strategies that show how the position of cities has influenced, and continues to play a central role in, state expansion policies such as those of Serbia, which according to external analysts is interested in new conflicts in the Balkans starting from Kosovo to Bosnia.

Serbia and the Serbian radical forces in Bosnia are trying to create a new geographical space by invading parts of neighboring states or forcibly taking territories of strategic importance. The clandestine attacks of recent years in the Balkans organized by Serbia and Russia have, as you know, been modernized into other forms of influence that we have made known for more than a decade. Serbia’s territorial ambitions are clear. Promising statements coming from the US and the EU will not solve anything as Serbia and Russia in the geographical space of national interest are making complicated moves. Unfortunately, it will be difficult to prevent this process due to the establishment of new alliances by the US itself in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. The new dynamic in US and EU relations with the Balkan states leaves room for new attacks from Serbia, which Russia supports, and radical forces will continue to pose a permanent threat to the fragile states of the region. The US and the EU are leaving behind a complex geopolitical region with no solution, for the reasons mentioned above.

Some characteristics of the belated behavior of global actors are manifesting again in regional foreign policies. Traits are linked here to interests when allies one day turn against friends and become adversaries. During the last two centuries, the change of alliances has determined at the same time the geopolitical dynamics of Europe and, in particular, the Balkans, where the governments, especially the Serbian ones, are interested in continuing the instability with the help of Russia. As a sensitive part for decades, in addition to Bosnia, the city of Mitrovica and the northern part of Kosovo, where Serbs live in the majority and Albanians are forced to move to the southern part, have been presented.

Senior officials of Kosovo have shown doubts that the military bases of Serbia near the border of Kosovo present signs of possible attacks by Serbian military forces on Kosovo. Such a large concentration of the Serbian army with elevated military capacities is an indication that Serbia is interested in a siege occupation of the northern part of Kosovo. Although the city of Mitrovica and the north of Kosovo differ from the time of the former siege of the cities in the Middle Ages, it still has a special importance for Kosovo and Serbia. Serbia has made efforts to change the ethnic structure and establish a parallel Serbian government. And not only that. The Serbian government and the army have bigger goals, that of occupying this part of Kosovo at a time of great uncertainty in the US and the EU regarding the fate of Ukraine and the Balkans. It must be admitted that, despite the secondary events in the Balkan region, the historical background of Mitrovica and the north plays a major role in the relations between Kosovo and the US with Serbia. As Mitrovica and the north could easily be destabilized, despite international peacekeeping forces, the EU and the US are pressuring the Kosovo government to form the Association of Serbian Municipalities (ASM). They know that Serbia’s approach to Mitrovica and the north reflects not only Serbia’s historical ambitions towards Kosovo. The Serbian government is implementing complex diplomatic strategies to ensure an easy intervention in the north, without any caveats from the US and the EU. This is precisely where the fear of some actors and the government of Kosovo lies. Serbia, by balancing national interests with international movements that favor Serbia, has succeeded in complicating the solution for the north and the normalization of relations even more.

Northern Kosovo and Mitrovica will be under the Serbian-Russian eye for a long time. It will undoubtedly be part of the orientation of Serbian nationalist policies in the Balkan region. The government of Kosovo has taken several steps to bring the north under control. However, uncertainty remains high because the international factor is not determined to put Serbia behind coercive diplomacy. In conclusion, it can be said that by comparing historical cases and regional and international circumstances, we can usually give more accurate assessments of where a region will go, and here, the Balkans. At the same time, without excluding the risks of ethnic and religious divisions in certain areas. In the same hot spots, the nationalist policies of the stressed states will try to make territorial changes through oppression and violence. This is also likely to be achieved with new disinformation tactics using tools belonging to hybrid warfare.

Ibraimi holds a Ph.D. in Political Science