What is the goal of James Rubin’s return to the Western Balkans?

“The visit of James Rubin, coordinator of the Center for Issues of Global Importance, to the Western Balkans should be seen in the context of the assessment of the American administration that a new impulse is needed to improve the implementation process of the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, with the mediation of the EU. Obviously, it was assessed that the first reactions are not promising enough, that there is a certain deadlock and that a more concrete and dynamic approach is needed in the implementation of the agreement”, assesses Danas interlocutors, noting that one of the goals of Rubin’s visit is to reduce Russia’s influence on the region.

The special envoy of the United States, James Rubin, in a statement to N1, on the eve of his visit to our region, said that this is “a time of great hope in the Balkans” and that the European agreement on Kosovo “gives the opportunity to put an end to the conflict, disagreements, suffering, to start forward to a brighter future”.

He stated that a lot of time had passed since the wars in the Balkans and noted that “both countries and peoples have somehow left those wars behind and are trying to normalize relations”.

“We welcome the agreements that the EU is working on and that helps Kosovo and Serbia to have normal relations, to enable peoples to live next to each other, to recognize symbols, minority rights, freedoms of the people and move forward so that both Kosovo and Serbia can be part of European institutions Rubin said.

Branka Latinović, the retired ambassador, recalls that Rubin was the press representative of the State Department two decades ago, that he did not have political engagement for a long time, although he has behind him various engagements in several scientific centers. He was also a commentator on reputable portals on international topics.

“He was recently rehired by the State Department as a special envoy and coordinator of the US Center for Global Issues. And after almost two decades, he was again engaged in the Western Balkans region, as a person who knows the circumstances well, including the period of the recent past when he was also engaged (the time of the bombing of Serbia)”, notes Latinović.

According to her, the arrival of Rubin should be seen in the context of the assessment of the American administration that new momentum, a new impulse is needed to advance the implementation process regarding the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, with the mediation of the EU. She points out that it was clearly assessed that the first reactions are not promising enough, that there is a certain delay and that a more concrete and dynamic approach is needed in the realization of the agreed upon.

“Given that Rubin is also the coordinator of the Center for Issues of Global Importance, it is to be expected that one of the topics during his visit will be the influence of other global factors in the region, including the Russian Federation and China.” Based on his latest statement, a new, different vocabulary is evident, as well as that the focus will be on the need to make new, bold decisions and create the conditions for reaching the necessary consensus,” says Danas’ interviewee.

He adds that it is noticeable that even Rubin does not speak about the need to recognize Kosovo, but about the normalization of relations and the creation of the necessary preconditions for its sustainability.

“It would be said that the USA is moving in the direction of intensifying the dynamism of that process and achieving the goals from the implementation mechanism,” notes Latinović, and the former Serbian ambassador to Kuwait, Mihajlo Brkić, should actually pay attention to Rubin’s key statement, which reads: “It is easy to introduce restlessness, complaining, demanding to get 100 percent. If one side wants to get everything, this won’t work. It must be an acceptable solution for both Kosovo and Serbia, the leaders must make difficult decisions and move towards the normalization that is possible today. Today it is possible with the agreements that have been signed”.

His statement, as Brkić says, should be viewed in the context of the fact that he and President Biden, as well as Ambassador Hill, were part of the Clinton administration, which decisively influenced the creation of the Kosovo precedent, and which now complicates the international legal position of the USA when interpret the war in Ukraine.

“So the interest of the current US administration is to remove the issue of Kosovo from the agenda as soon as possible, and for the first time it might be able to offer something to the Serbian side, even though it constantly favors the independence of the Kosovo Albanians,” says Brkić.

When asked what Serbia could get, diplomat Brkić says that, in all likelihood, he will not insist on explicit recognition of Kosovo. And the USA can give a clear signal that Serbia, although neutral, is also a partner country, i.e. that it is safe for investment and other forms of strengthening economic and other forms of cooperation.

And diplomat Duško Lopandić, the arrival of US special envoy James Rubin in Serbia confirms the increased engagement of the US administration in issues related to dialogue and the European perspectives of Serbia and the Western Balkans. “The message about the need for compromise primarily refers to the stubbornness of the authorities in Pristina, which do not miss the opportunity to contribute to the increase in tensions on the ground and to the denial of the Serbian community’s right to autonomy, which is a natural demand and a logical consequence of compromise solutions for this complicated case,” says Lopandić.

He adds that the increased involvement of the US in the matter of supporting European integration will be especially useful, bearing in mind the obvious absence of real leadership in the EU system.

Srećko Đukić, publicist and diplomat, notes for Danas that there is no doubt that the Brussels-Ohrid agreement between Belgrade and Pristina offered prospects for overcoming the age-old conflict and misunderstanding between Serbs and Albanians, something we have not had in our mutual history.

“However, after Ohrid, Belgrade and Pristina seem to want to forget him, as if he never existed. Rhetoric pours from both sides and does everything to undermine the very foundations of many years of hard work. One gets the impression that both are afraid of success and would not like to come out of the shell of Balkan jokes and hair-splitting. “James Rubin portrayed well both sides of reality”, says Đukić, alluding to Rubin’s statement that he understands how much war often reminds people in a painful way of what happened, but people must turn to the future, and not discuss the past”.

To remind you, the American envoy, before his visit to our region, also said that bold decisions by leaders will be needed. Leaders must tell the truth to their people, of course, no one will get 100 percent of their demands, no one can get everything, compromise must be learned.

“I think there is an opportunity, the opportunity is negotiations, which will normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo, this is possible with strong leadership and decisions,” said Rubin and said that everyone will have to play their role.

Referring to Rubin’s congratulatory message to Jakov Milatović after his victory in the elections in Montenegro, in which he spoke about Russia’s influence on our region, the spread of disinformation and the terrible war in Ukraine, Danas interlocutors assess that his visit to Serbia also aims to distance Serbia from the Russian Federation, and towards convincing Serbia to introduce sanctions against Russia, but that it will be quite difficult.

“Vučić is a tried-and-tested radical cadre and like his father Šešelj, he is irrationally tied to mother Russia by a radical umbilical cord,” notes Đukić.

The Serbian public remembers James Rubin from the time of the bombing of Serbia. At that time, he was an assistant to the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. He was in Bill Clinton’s administration from 1997 to 2000.

After diplomacy, he also tried his hand as a presenter, journalist and commentator. He was a presenter on Sky News with his own show called World News Tonight. The show was short-lived. He wrote a regular column on foreign affairs for London’s Sandy Times and was an editor at The New Republic. He was born in 1960 in New York and is married to CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour.

Atifete Jahjaga, the former president of Kosovo, awarded him the presidential medal for merit.

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