Western Balkans: What will change with Trump as president?

Serbs may be rejoicing over the Republican candidate’s win, but substantial changes in the US relations with the region are unlikely.

The results were declared at 11 pm, and Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by a narrow margin of 127 by 117.

That was the outcome of the mock election held at the well-attended Election Night party at the Belgrade Crown Plaza hotel, organized by the US embassy here with a local NGO, the Center for Social Dialogue and Regional Initiatives.

The party lasted until midnight and invitees talked about their expectations and guessed the likely result of the most brutal, divisive and at times even uncivilized campaign in modern US history.

A consensus emerged that early trends – enthusiastic voting among Hispanics and women, were favoring Hillary Clinton.

The final results of the U.S. presidential elections have just confirmed Trump’s success who won at least 290 electoral votes while Hillary Clinton stopped at 218. ‘An Incredible Victory’, ‘Stunning and Shocking’, are just some of the headlines in the American media which covered the news.

However, the outcome of the U.S. election was welcomed in the Balkans, at least by the majority of the Serbian population and the Serbs in the Republic of Srpska in Bosnia. Clinton, who was the first woman to have been nominated by a major party for a president, is still seen as the living symbol the NATO bombing campaign that was commissioned in 1999 by her husband, the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton.

Less enthusiastic about the billionaire tycoon, who will soon move to the White House, are the Kosovo Albanians, who owe their independence (still contested by Serbia) to Clinton. The former president even has a street named after him in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, along with a life-sized statue (Hilary only got a boutique named after her). Even the Bosnians and the Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina would have preferred the Democratic candidate in the hope that her win would lead to the re-negotiation of the Dayton Accords of 1995 and put a stop to the secessionist ideas of the Republic of Srpska.

Although Trump’s victory was very disconcerting for many US allies, one thing is certain: the Balkans will certainly not be the primary objective of the US foreign policy. Trump and the new secretary of state will be committed to untangling the mess in the Middle East, stabilizing the relations with Russia, dealing with the Chinese economic boom and many other issues.

The fundamentals of US foreign policy in the Balkans are likely to remain unchanged: Kosovo’s independence will not be revoked, Serbia will be assisted in its efforts to join the European Union, to continue implementing reforms, to continue having a dialogue with Kosovo with the goal of normalizing the bilateral relations, and to resist the pressure from Moscow to succumb to its influence. Meanwhile, the possibility of joining NATO, which is a very sensitive issue, can remain dormant.

The rest of the region can expect a more or less of the same scenario: new attempts to reorganize the highly dysfunctional political system in Bosnia, further support to Montenegro in formalizing its NATO membership, and consolidating its ‘divorce’ from Russia, especially after the failed attempt to sabotage the elections and to arrest or even kill the prime minister, Milo Djukanovic.

We must also consider another factor at play in the Balkans: the Balkans, in general, have not developed an understanding of the “Frenemies concept”, according to which the former enemies can become friends over today. Moreover, the U.S. political system is such that even if the U.S. government is willing to change their foreign policy, first they need to go through endless negotiations between its state institutions before a change can occur. Even with Donald Trump at the country’s helm, we can hardly expect huge U-turns in the U.S. foreign policy.

(Balkan Insight, 09.11.2016)


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