Sunday, April 14, 2024

How Trump Lost the Balkans

Author: Edward P. Joseph

Affiliation: Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Policy

Date/Place: October 28, 2020/USA

Type of Literature: Argument

Word Count:  1984


Keywords: USA, Trump, Balkan, Bad Diplomacy


The US has always been an important superpower in the Balkans to maintain stability in the region. Edward P. Joseph states that especially Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, and North Macedonia are facing increasing inter-ethnic conflicts despite the knowledge and supervision of the Trump administration. The author provides cases which represent the “shortsighted diplomacy” of Donald Trump in which he provoked the “sharpest deterioration in relations” in the Balkans since the recent conflicts almost twenty years ago. Joseph mentions in this context the disputes between Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia and between Serbia and Kosovo. In the first case, Bulgaria was encouraged “unwittingly” by senior US officials to threaten North Macedonia to block its negotiations for the European Union membership, as well as to threaten its neighbor with a military intervention; not to mention the sale to Bulgaria of eight US F-16 fighters.  Instead of guaranteeing security in the region by warning Bulgaria’s nationalist defense secretary Karakachanov, the US is keeping its silence regarding Bulgaria’s statements towards North Macedonia. A similar fiasco happened between Serbia and Kosovo, where the US again remained silent. Since the US openly stated that the country’s interest lies mainly on economic arrangements, the nationalist Serbian defense minister Vulin did not shy to use “offensive epithets” for Albanians in official statements, and even Foreign Minister Dacic felt free to threaten Serbs who were showing Albanians where “their bodies” are buried. The author criticizes the Trump administration for its “greedy” attitude to solely focus on economy, while ignoring the region’s political tensions and further provoking inter-ethnic conflicts with its “careless, unprofessional” foreign policy. 

By: Dilek Yücel-Kamadan, CIGA Research Associate



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