Serbia ‘hopes’ it won’t need to use army against Kosovo, says PM

Soldiers of NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR take a break by the side of the road in the village of Kosterc, Kosovo. Serbia’s prime minister warned that the formation of a Kosovo army could trigger Serbia’s armed intervention in it’s former province. (AP Photo)
Updated 05 December 2018
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Serbia ‘hopes’ it won’t need to use army against Kosovo, says PM

  • Kosovo, a former Serbian province that broke away in a guerilla war, is expected to vote next week on whether to transform its lightly-armed emergency force into a national army
  • The plans to create its own military force have enraged Serbia, which still refuses to recognize Kosovo’s 2008 independence declaration

BELGRADE: Serbia’s Prime Minister said Wednesday she “hoped” Belgrade would not have to resort to war in response to Kosovo’s moves to create its own army, in the latest fiery salvo between the neighbors.
Kosovo, a former Serbian province that broke away in a guerilla war, is expected to vote next week on whether to transform its lightly-armed emergency force into a national army.
Since the end of the 1998-99 war that effectively cleaved it from Belgrade, Kosovo has relied on NATO-led forces to ensure security.
The plans to create its own military force have enraged Serbia, which still refuses to recognize Kosovo’s 2008 independence declaration.
“I hope that we will never have to use our army, but at this moment it is one of the options on the table,” Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told reporters.
NATO also weighed in from Brussels, with its chief Jens Stoltenberg warning Kosovo the move was “ill-timed” and may carry “serious repercussions.”
A day earlier Serbia’s president Aleksander Vucic accused Pristina of trying to “drive out” Kosovo’s 120,000 Serb community, which is concentrated in the north, with its army plans.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj responded Wednesday saying it was a “pure lie” that the army would be directed in the Serb-dominated north, which has never fully submitted to Pristina’s authority.
“The army will not be for the north of Kosovo... The army will be used to help NATO in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said.
More than 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, were killed in the 1998-1999 independence war, which ended when a NATO bombing forced Serb troops to withdraw from Kosovo.
The neighbors have never normalized relations and tensions have been running especially high since Pristina slapped Serbian goods with a 100 percent tariff last month.
Pristina said it was revenge for Belgrade’s efforts to undermine Kosovo on the world stage by shutting it out of global organizations.
According to Kosovo customs spokesman Adriatik Stavileci, the tariff has reduced border trade significantly.
Only 48 trucks from Serbia and Bosnia have entered over the past two weeks, compared to 100 daily before the tariff, he said.
Although Serbia is Kosovo’s biggest regional trading partner, so far for there has been no significant shortage of goods or price surges.
Supply stocks, imports from Albania and Macedonia, but also smuggling across the border are helping keep shelves full, according to experts.


Report raises fresh doubts over Trump’s NATO commitment

Updated 16 January 2019
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Report raises fresh doubts over Trump’s NATO commitment

  • Last year, Trump repeatedly told senior officials that he did not see the point of NATO
  • Before taking office, Trump called NATO “obsolete”

WASHINGTON: Fresh doubts surfaced Tuesday over President Donald Trump’s commitment to NATO, after he was reported to have discussed a desire to pull out of the trans-Atlantic military alliance.
Last year, Trump repeatedly told senior officials that he did not see the point of NATO — the historic alliance that forms the backbone of the West’s post-World War II security order — and that he wanted to withdraw, The New York Times reported.
He has often blasted members of the 29-nation partnership for not paying more into their national defense budgets.
Before taking office, Trump called NATO “obsolete” and soon after a tumultuous summit in July, he questioned whether the US would honor the alliance’s founding principle of mutual defense for newest member Montenegro.
Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, said the US remains “100 percent” committed to NATO.
At the summit the president said the US “commitment to NATO is very strong” and “tremendous progress has been made” by allies and partners.
“That has not changed,” Pahon said in a statement.
“NATO remains the cornerstone of transatlantic security.”
In Brussels, a NATO official also highlighted Trump’s comments from the July summit.
“The United States is strongly committed to NATO and to transatlantic security,” the official told AFP.
“The US has significantly boosted its commitment to the defense of Europe, including with increased troop commitments.”
Turning 70 this year, NATO has underpinned Western security in Europe for decades, first countering the Soviet Union and then Russian expansionism.
A US withdrawal from NATO would be a strategic gift of epic proportions to Russia, which is accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential elections to help Trump win.
Former defense secretary Jim Mattis was a staunch proponent of NATO and repeatedly visited its Brussels headquarters, where he sought to reassure allies about America’s commitment to the alliance.
But Mattis quit last month, and observers see a shrinking coterie of advisers around Trump willing to push back against him.
The US Congress, including Trump’s own Republican Party, would likely push back against any effort to withdraw from NATO.
The only country to have ever invoke Article 5, NATO’s collective defense principle, was America following the September 11, 2001 attacks.