The Third Balkan War

By: Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.

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Written March 24, 2001

The contours of a Third Balkan War are emerging. In the western part of hitherto peaceful Macedonia, Albanian radicals - an oddball ragtag army of disgruntled KLA rejects and wild students - has pushed into Tetovo in a bid to force the Macedonian government to accept the federalization of the country. They have been repelled by Macedonian police and army units but they vow to be back and to open a wider front: Tetovo, Kumnovo, Debar, and urban guerilla in Skopje. Kosovo rumbled and seethed with demonstrations of popular support and statements the West succeeded to extract from reluctant Kosovar politicians in favour of a negotiated resolution of the conflict. The West, as usual, fumbled. Its representatives - ill trained conscripts, self important dim-witted diplomats and paper shuffling dead end bureaucrats - were long on rhetoric and short on everything else. Their formula seems to consist of the coercion of the weakened Macedonian state into a constitutional re-definition of the status of the Albanian minority. Everyone was again taken by complete surprise. Albanian violent extremism is likely to spread to Greece and Bulgaria where small but restive Albanian minorities exist. Both countries offered military and political succor to Macedonia against the Albanian insurgents. The NATO-sponsored Presevo accords signed between Yugoslavia (really, Serbia) and the Albanian militias there, are not worth the fire, which will undoubtedly consume them. Already both parties are blaming each other for reneging on their contractual obligations.

Yet, Macedonia and Presevo are a diversion, a first salvo, a side-show. The REAL Balkan War started elsewhere with the unravelling of the Dayton Accords.

From "The Fifth Horseman", published December 5, 2000:

"The West's protectorate in Bosnia Herzegovina is shrivelling... While paying lip service to the defunct Dayton accords, the fusty puppets of Karadzic and his creed ascended in both the Croat bit of the improbable Croat-Muslim Federation and in its nightmarish sister, Republika Srpska. The West, enamoured of its own abstractions and confabulations, seems to be inured to the recurrent and thundering message that Bosnia is an untenable and tenuous proposition. An eruption is afoot.

The new leaders of the new Croatia are adept at signing the tunes the West likes to hear. They keep their distance from their Bosnian-Croat brethren with the same unmitigated zeal that they applied to the ethnic cleansing of the Serbs with the murderous help of now shunned ones. Yet, should Bosnia be reduced to ethnic smithereens, Croatia, as well as Serbia, are not likely to sit idle and watch their compatriots slaughtered by Afghan and Saudi mujaheedin or harried by each other. A re-ignition of the war in campestral Bosnia - and all bets are off, including the Dayton wager. Another Serb-Croat encounter will rock the very foundations of the hallucinatory "New Order" in the Balkan."

The imminent Serb-Croat war is a logical result of the infighting between Kostunica and Djindjic. The latter, having used the former to depose of Milosevic, is now backstabbing, a bit of a Balkan reflex. Fighting for his political life, Kostunica teamed up with the outcast elements in Republika Srpska, a nominal part of the fictitious American-sponsored state of Bosnia. On March 5th, he signed a declaratory accord between Yugoslavia and the Republika, similar to the Russia-Belarus document of confederation. Thus, the classic Serb beauty contest ("I am more nationalist than you are") has commenced.

This event, thoroughly overlooked by the Kostunica-enamoured Western media, was preceded by the corrosive disintegration of Bosnia and the slow demise of the Dayton Accords. When the Croat National Assembly has declared self-rule in five cantons in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Wolfgang Petritsch, the Western dictator in Bosnia fired Ante Jelavic (of the HDZ - the Croatian Democratic Union) from the tripartite presidency of the protectorate and banned him and others from future political activity. These sagacious acts will surely lead to the formation of a Croat underground government.

In the meantime, more than 12,000 Croat soldiers deserted en masse from the VF (the Bosnian "army") and formed the First Guard Corps. The police is next. The country is being effectively partitioned.

If the 22,000 troops of the West (which include the American contingent, likely to be pulled out of Bosnia gradually) will oppose these developments by force, another war is a certainty. In such a war, the West's inexperienced and casualty-shy soldiers are bound to be massacred. Moreover, both Serbia and Croatia are likely to join the war to defend their own. The current regime in Croatia maintains its distance from the thuggish Bosnian HDZ and from its destabilizing agenda - but it cannot afford to be seen to be abandoning Croats under a Moslem and Serb siege. The Croat parliament has already mooted an elaborate plan for the cantonalization or confederalization of Bosnia - an absolute abrogation of the Dayton Accords.

Montenegro and Vojvodina are next.

The tiny smuggling haven of Montenegro is the spurned mistress of the West, used during Operation Allied Force (Kosovo, 1999) and ignored thereafter. The Montenegrins face an impossible choice with a divided mind. They can either break decisively from Serbia - or succumb to its overweening embrace. It is a Hobson's choice. Should it choose the former route, a civil war is inexorable. Yet, the same result is guaranteed, should it choose the latter.

And then there is Vojvodina. Populated by businesslike Serbs and civil Hungarians, it never really felt like part of Serbia the rustic and bombastic. Restless Magyars across the border seek to force Serbia to make amends for historical injustices real and imaginary. Though part of the ruling coalition, Vojvodina politicians have lately been demanding an autonomy as wide as the one they used to constitutionally enjoy before Milosevic abolished it. Vojvodina is boiling. Nationalist politicians agitate, secret services clash secretly, journalist remonstrate, the province does flourishing (though often illicit) business with Hungary and spawned a small but intellectually influential independence minded movement. It is a Kosovo in the making, saddled by historic animosities no less intense. It is seething, though in a cultured, Austro-Hungarian manner.

The Balkan has never been more politically fragmented than now. It was never before ruled by a single superpower. Adjusting to these new geopolitical realities is tough. The prospects of another Balkan war depend on it.

One by one the actors in this Greek tragedy enter. The old, worn scenery is set. The script is known, the motions automatic, the end result inevitable. Welcome to the Balkan's theatre of the absurd.

Western Balkans as Looming Threat (Brussels Morning)


The recently declassified 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community had this to say about the western Balkans:


“The Western Balkans probably will face an increased risk of localized interethnic violence during 2024.

Nationalist leaders are likely to exacerbate tension for their political advantage and outside actors will reinforce and exploit ethnic differences to increase or protect their regional influence or thwart greater Balkan integration into the EU or Euro–Atlantic institutions.

• Clashes between Serb nationalists and Kosovar authorities have led to deaths and injuries, including injuries to NATO peacekeepers, in 2023.

• Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik is taking provocative steps to neutralize international

oversight in Bosnia and secure de facto secession for his Republika Srpska. His action could

prompt leaders of the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) population to bolster their own capacity to protect their interests and possibly lead to violent conflicts that could overwhelm peacekeeping forces.”


The annual assessments enjoy a poor reputation among intelligence pros the world over. They are considered as little more than a glorified compilation of press cuttings. Its authors tend to mindlessly extrapolate current events linearly into the future. Consequently, they rarely get their predictions right.


The only two specific prognostications in the current edition are similarly dubious at best.


In Kosovo, a far likelier long-term outcome is the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Serbs by the Kurti government with a wink and a nod from the anti-Vucic, anti-Russian Western powers.


Sporadic skirmishes with Serb paramilitaries aside, Kosovo is inexorably turning into an ethnically homogenous, widely diplomatically recognized state, firmly aligned with the West in its proxy wars with Russia. Serbia and Serbs, as usual, are on the wrong side of history.


As for Dodik, he is the rule, not the exception. The Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina threatened to seceded in 2022. Such brinkmanship is aimed at extracting concessions from the EU and from the other constituents of this artificial polity. It is not an actual political platform. It is a poker bluff.


What is needed is a synoptic, bird’s-eye view: tensions abound in all the geopolitical fault lines: Taiwan, Ukraine, Israel, the Balkans, south and central America.


The accelerating decline of the USA has created a yawning power gap and regional actors such as China, Russia, and Iran are rushing in to fulfil the vacancy. New alliances are superimposed on historical enmities. It is a period of tumultuous global transition and the Western Balkans is no exception.


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