Tensions are continuing to rise in Kosovo as hundreds of ethnic Serbs erected barricades across a road in the northern area of the country that blocked traffic from passing through the two main border crossings with Serbia. This latest incident, which saw vehicles like trucks and machines used for agriculture used as roadblocks, comes on the heels of explosions, shootings, and even an armed attack on a police patrol in the area.
The root of the current situation arose as a result of local Serbs resigning from official positions in protest for the government of Kosovo’s decision replace Belgrade-issued car licence plates with those issued by Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, instead. Tensions have gradually increased until these more recent violent incidents came about in part due to how the main Serb political party indicated it will boycott local elections that had originally been scheduled for December 18th. As a result of the violence, these elections have since been postponed until April 23rd.
Though Serbs only make up approximately 120,000 of the 1.8 million population of Kosovo, the vast majority of the rest being ethnically Albanian, the possibility cannot be dismissed that Serbia would deploy its armed forces across their shared border in the event the tensions lead to greater violence. Indeed, President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia has already indicated that it will ask NATO peacekeepers to allow it to deploy Serbian military and police forces to Kosovo, despite a belief it will not be granted such permission. This move will be the first time that Serbia has requested to deploy troops to Kosovo, which is allowed under the provisions of that United Nations Security Council resolution that ended the Kosovo War. Should the commander of the NATO peacekeeping force decide to approve the request, Serbia would be able to deploy up to 1,000 troops to areas with Serb majorities, border crossings, and Orthodox religious sites in Kosovo.
Should NATO decline this deployment request, and tensions continue, concerns that Serbia might unilaterally follow through with such a move might bring the situation that much closer to a new war in Kosovo. At a time when attention has been mostly focused on the violence inflicted by Russia occuring in Ukraine, the United States, the European Union, and NATO will all face difficult decisions not least of which being that, should violence break out, how, and to what degree, should they get involved.
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