Pax Americana: The Clash of American and European visions for CEE

Washington displays strategic foreign policy in the Western Balkans that had been lacking

1 February 2023

Jan Farfal and Vukan Markovic

Subtly and far from popular media, developments in the Balkans can be a testimony that the rift between current EU policy and a new American strategy for Eastern Europe is growing. Despite the EU’s reluctance, Washington is willing to give Serbia a second chance. Enthusiastic support for Warsaw and a new opening for Belgrade marks Washington’s commitment to secure the Eastern Flank on its own terms – supporting the biggest players in the region, demographically, economically and militarily – against Paris or Berlin’s wishes. This strategic divergence has the potential for a tectonic shift that could profoundly challenge the balance of power in the region.

The war in Ukraine came as an opportunity for America to prove that they remain the most formidable power in the world. The way they have been handling support for Kyiv was, according to numerous commentators, a clear signal to China, but it was also a clear signal to Europe as well. Primarily French ambitions of strategic autonomy for the EU, based on the European Army, as the precursor of federalised European sovereignty, became a dead letter. Compared to the clumsy and sluggish European reaction, Americans took the complete initiative, fully coordinating the Western response. The previous few weeks were marked by German reluctance to provide Ukraine with tanks and American insistence that those tanks are to be delivered.

The “tank-affair,” is another testimony that the security culture of different NATO countries is far from identical. Whereas they strive to agree on all important issues, there are rifts in terms of strategies to help Ukraine. What is more, the joint EU-American position is currently challenged in yet another domain and, unless properly addressed, may create further rifts in the relations.

Whereas the full attention of the world is naturally drawn towards Eastern Europe, the future of the Western Balkans remains “unresolved”. The factors for this distinction are varied, but the adjective is fitting, not least because of purported Russian and Chinese influences or because this region is still not fully integrated with either the European Union or NATO.


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