BELGRADE – Donald Trump sees the Western Balkans as a region where he can make deals, while Joseph Biden would coordinate better with the EU regarding the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, said Thomas Countryman, Chair of the Arms Control Association board of directors and former Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, in his speech during the panel discussion entitled “American Elections and Serbian Dilemma” organised by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy and the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Belgrade.
When it comes to the infamous Washington Agreement, Countryman said that it had a lot to do with Trump’s focus on reaching agreements with countries where new agreements are needed.
“That is how he sees the Balkans. Not as a long-term security challenge, not as a place where human rights or economic growth must be promoted, but as a place where you can make a deal between competing sides”, said Countryman.
Trump’s motivation to work on the Washington Agreement also comes from his disdain for the European Union, explains Countryman.
“He is happy to be in competition with the EU. He does not side with the EU, but looks at what economically he could bring in terms of reaching a deal, and what it could mean economically to the US”, he said.
Countryman also argued that it is very unlikely that Serbian Americans will be a decisive factor in the upcoming elections, and added that Serbia is not and will not be seen as an important actor by Trump’s administration.
“Unlike Trump, Biden could find Serbia on a map. He has been there, repeatedly. He will not look at the Western Balkans as an arena of competition between the United States and the European Union. You should expect to see better coordination between Brussels and Washington on a Kosovo-Serbia dialogue”, said Countryman.
He said that one of the key things that would be different in case Biden gets elected is that there would be a greater emphasis on fighting governmental corruption, which could start the trend internationally.
“For those citizens of Serbia who look forward to a democratic, prosperous and non-corrupt future, I have no doubts that a Biden administration would be better. For those who are content with the way things are, or who would like to go back in history 50 years, Trump would be a better choice”, said Countryman.
According to Ivan Vujačić, Professor at the Faculty of Economics and former ambassador of Serbia to the United States, the meeting between Vučić and Hoti in Washington in September had very little to do with the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.
“What happened in Washington was not an agreement, it was a statement by two parties, done in front of the American president independently. A lot of it had nothing to do with us, we became a factor in Middle Eastern politics. This was all in the function of Trump’s own policy”, said Vujačić.
Discussing potential changes that these elections might bring, Vujačić said that Biden would try to build back the partnership with the European Union.
“This translates into Biden supporting the doctrine of “Europe whole, free and at peace”, and that means promoting the EU accession to the Western Balkans for all those countries that are meeting the standards to become eligible members of the EU”, said Vujačić.
Slobodan Georgiev, news and program director of Newsmax Adria, said that, regardless of the outcomes of the upcoming elections in the US, Vučić will try to show that he is in close relations with both Biden and Trump, and that the Washington Agreement was an occasion to show that Serbia, and Vučić in particular, are important actors in the international politics.
“He hosted Biden in Belgrade back in 2016, and he spent the whole month of September talking about the event in Washington in the White House, trying to show that he is the man who can talk with Putin, Trump, Xi, Orbán, Erdoğan, just to show that he is an important man”, said Georgiev.
He concluded by saying that the meeting in Washington had a positive effect on the whole region regardless of Trump’s motivation for it, because normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina is necessary for the EU accession process of Serbia.
“It looks like something is going to happen next year before Lajčak finishes his term, but I do not think there is political will to reach the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina”, said Georgiev.