As the old saying goes, history may not repeat itself — but it sure does rhyme.
We are seeing this scenario play itself out in the Balkans. The region is a flash point, a world conflict waiting to happen. Consider the charges traded by Albania and Serbia over accession to the European Union. As one reporter from the regional news service Tsarizm stated, it is obvious there is an imposed peace in the Balkans, a peace that right now looks very fragile.
Everyone knows about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian assassin in Sarajevo, which touched off World War I. As Russia reasserts itself in geopolitical affairs, steered by the consummate statesman Vladimir Putin, the memory of the bombing of Serbian forces in the Balkan wars of the 1990s is still fresh in the memory of many Russians.
To this day, if an American goes to a dinner party in Moscow, the subject of Serbia will eventually come up. Moscow’s determination to reappear on the geopolitical scene can be traced to Russian feelings of impotence in the face of NATO airstrikes against their long-term Slavic ally three decades ago.
The tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, which Belgrade still sees as a breakaway part of the country, have been back in the news lately. Serbia wanted to send a train into Kosovo with “Kosovo is Serbia” written all over the outside in multiple languages. The ethnic hatreds and clashing territorial claims are still there, smoldering beneath the agreements and the imposed peace, ready to reassert themselves at any time.
Last week, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama angered Serbia by hinting at a greater Albanian state from Tirana to Kosovo. Many Albanians brushed it off as just rhetoric designed to pressure for the EU to speed up the accession process for certain Balkan states. However, Serbia took it seriously, as a Freudian slip revealing the true Albanian agenda.
“If I said that all Serbs should live in one state, I would be hanged from a flagpole in Brussels,” said the Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.
The caldron of conflicts of interest has a religious aspect that is integral to understanding the tension. The massive influx of Muslim refugees into Europe has heightened the sense of crisis. Serbia and Russia are positioning themselves as the protectors of the Orthodox faith, using the church to justify a conquest doctrine to combat Islamic forces which have attempted to do the same.
Macedonia and Montenegro also have large ethnic Albanian populations. The accession of these former Yugoslavian states into NATO has angered Mr. Putin. The Kremlin has encouraged instability in the Balkans, attempting to lure the countries for the region away from the EU and back into Moscow’s orbit.
So once again, you have the great powers of the world jockeying for influence in this tiny corner of Europe. The European Union is trying to keep its great globalist experiment alive. Moscow is trying to recreate buffer zones and spheres of influence on its borders. The U.S. State Department is involved, with old Obama administration diplomats balking at the new Trump “America First” doctrine and pushing the open border agenda of liberal billionaire George Soros throughout the region.
With the world focused on the North Korean threat, the Middle East mess and Beijing’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, global leaders will be wise to keep an eye on this notoriously volatile corner of the Earth.
• L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.