A day before the inauguration of Joe Biden as the new U.S. president, experts from former Yugoslavia said that Donald Trump’s administration has contributed to the fact that some local leaders have turned to Russia and China but that with Biden in the White House, Washington will have a new approach toward the region.
The presence of the United States and the European Union played a key role in the Balkans but in 2010 both abandoned the region which allowed Russia and China to slip in, Sonja Biserko, the President of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia said.
“The Trump administration itself contributed to local leaders turning to Russia,” she said speaking of Serbia.
“The new American administration will be against divisions in the Balkans, and we should expect a new engagement of America when Biden finishes what he has to do at home,” she said.
“A breakthrough in the Balkans should be expected because the Balkans are also seen as a security issue,” she explained, adding that Russia's role remains important and that the recent visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov was a message to Washington that it should count on Russia’s presence in the region.
She also pointed out that a new U.S. policy is being prepared, primarily for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.
Zlatko Lagumdzija, Bosnia’s former Foreign Minister, said that the country should use the new democratic wave coming from the U.S.
“The attitude towards BiH, as a multi-ethnic state, as a state of equal peoples in which all people are free, that Bosnia and Herzegovina has a proven friend in America,” he said.
With this new administration in Washington “the stars could not have aligned better for us because we have people who believe in such a BiH,” he said, adding that people in the new administration know this region well and that they will focus on multilateralism and strengthening the Euro-Atlantic partnership.
“This will become both a geostrategic and geopolitical issue and in a way will create a balance in the kind of policy Russia, China and Turkey have introduced here,” he said.
Lagumdzija added that he was still glad that Russia, China and Turkey were present in this region, because if they weren't, the U.S. “wouldn't remember us and it's good that they remember us.”
But ultimately, he said, it is up to locals to act, regardless of how many friends they have abroad.