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Trump ‘Shadow Diplomacy’? Deploys ‘Ambassador’ To Address Serbia-Kosovo Tensions

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Topline

Former President Donald Trump said Thursday his “Envoy Ambassador” Ric Grenell—a former ambassador and staunch Trump partisan—visited the Serbia-Kosovo border in an attempt to promote peace between the two countries, in what appears to amount to a foreign policy mission on behalf of the former president.

Key Facts

Trump said in a statement Grenell was there to promote an economic normalization agreement his administration brokered in 2020.

Tensions have grown in recent weeks between the neighboring Balkan states, with clashes occurring near the border after Kosovan police tightened security in the area in what’s been described as an anti-smuggling operation.

Officials from the two countries signed an economic normalization agreement inside the Oval Office at the White House on September 4, 2020, even though Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty, after the country declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

The agreement also stipulated that Serbia would for one year suspend its efforts to keep Kosovo from being internationally recognized, while Kosovo would stop applying for membership in international organizations.

Crucial Quote

“Peace is possible, don’t give up—long term prosperity for those two nations is at stake!” Trump said.

Contra

While he was president, Trump was highly critical of former Obama administration officials engaging in what he called “Shadow Diplomacy.” In 2018, he blasted former Secretary of State John Kerry for meeting with Iranian officials in an attempt to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, saying Kerry’s actions were “possibly illegal.” Trump announced on May 8, 2018 that the U.S. was withdrawing from the deal.

Key Background

Kosovo has struggled for international recognition as Serbia maintains it still has authority over the region, which is dominated by ethnic Albanians. Kosovo was the site of a war in the late 1990s between Albanian separatist forces looking to break away from what was then Yugoslavia. More than 13,000 people died in the war, which did not result in the country’s independence or a change in Yugoslavia’s borders. The country has gradually gained recognition since it declared independence in 2008, but the world still remains divided over its status. Of the 193 United Nations member states, 97 recognize Kosovo as a sovereign country—just over 50% of all members. The U.S. and much of the European Union recognize Kosovo’s independence, but China and Russia do not.

Tangent

Grenell served in several diplomatic roles in the Trump administration, including as ambassador to Germany from 2018-2020 and as special envoy on Serbia-Kosovo peace negotiations from 2019 until the end of Trump’s term. Grenell was also named as the acting director of national intelligence on February 20, 2020, making him the first openly gay person to serve in a Cabinet-level position.

Further Reading

Trump blasts John Kerry’s ‘possibly illegal’ Iran nuclear deal ‘Shadow Diplomacy’ (CNBC)

Trump lauds economic steps between Serbia and Kosovo (Reuters)