More than two decades after NATO peacekeeping forces were deployed to stop Serbia’s ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosovo, the Balkan region is flaring up again. Amid heightened tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is visiting the Balkans this week.
Reed is traveling to Europe and plans to stop in Kosovo, which is home to nearly 2 million people, to get a firsthand look at security and political developments in the region and their impact on America’s national security.
The broader conflict between Kosovo and Serbia dates back to a war in the late 1990s that saw the loss of 10,000 people in Kosovo and the displacement of over 1 million. Following the conflict, Kosovo declared its independence in 2008. Serbia still refuses to recognize the sovereignty of its former province.
Both the United States and the European Union have been trying to advance normalization between the neighboring nations of Serbia and Kosovo through dialogue. Violence has flared recently following efforts by the Kosovar government to forcibly install newly elected ethnic Albanian mayors in several majority Serb towns in northern Kosovo. The election was boycotted by the Serbian population, resulting in a turnout of less than 3.5 percent.
During the trip, Senator Reed will meet with American diplomats and military representatives, and hold talks with high-ranking foreign leaders to discuss the U.S.-Kosovar relationship, the security situation, and America’s bilateral relationships with other partners in the region.
Senator Reed will also make stops at U.S European Command and U.S. Army Europe and Africa Command to meet with military leaders and to discuss Russia’s war in Ukraine and international efforts to equip and train brave Ukrainian military units as they fight to defend their sovereignty. He will also review U.S. security cooperation programs with partners and allies across Europe and ongoing NATO efforts to respond to the drastic changes in the European security landscape.
At every stop of the trip, Senator Reed plans to make clear America’s support for democracy, diplomacy, human rights, the rule of law, and anti-corruption efforts.
The NATO-led peacekeeping Kosovo Force (KFOR), currently includes members of the Rhode Island National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment, and 110th Public Affairs Detachment. Reed plans to meet with Rhode Island soldiers on the ground to thank them for their service in support of the international peacekeeping mission.
This will be Senator Reed’s third trip to Kosovo. Senator Reed has departed for the region and will return later this week.
Like Newport Buzz? We depend on the generosity of readers like you who support us, to help with our mission to keep you informed and entertained with local, independent news and content. We truly appreciate your trust and support!