How Humanitarian Intervention Built Lasting Bonds with Kosovo By Rrezart Dema
The election of Donald Trump has led foreign heads of state and citizens to reexamine their perceptions and relationship with the United States. Kosovo is an exception. Unbeknownst to many Americans, Kosovo is among the most pro-American countries in the world.
Demographically speaking, almost 95 percent of Kosovo’s population are ethnic Albanians. All ethnic Albanians identify with each other regardless of their state. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson prevented the potential disintegration of the state of Albania, providing historic roots of pro-American sentiment.
In 1999 NATO successful intervened against an ethnic cleansing by Serbian Slobodan Milosevic. Kosovars’ freedom was returned and with it, the hope for statehood, which later became reality. President Clinton’s decisive leadership transformed him into a cult figure in the minds of Kosovars.
The U.S. has traditionally been considered a model of liberal-democratic values. This serves as the base of its soft power all over the world, though Trump’s autocratic tendencies and praise for authoritarian leaders has garnered concern.
While Kosovars have historically had two sometimes diametrically opposed influences, the West and the East (largely because of the almost 500-year presence of Ottomans), their recent history is marked by a willingness to follow the example of the western liberal-democracies. Kosovars are more of a collectivist than individualistic culture, in contrast to the U.S., but Kosovars have embraced elements of American culture, especially in the arts and business. English is widely-spoken and almost universally required for any job application.
Pro-American sentiment is hard to miss in Kosovo. A 35-kilometer highway was named in memory of the former vice-president Joe Biden’s son, Beau Biden. Many streets in Kosovo are named after American Presidents, including George Washington, Woodrow Wilson, George Bush and others. Depictions of Bill Clinton remain the most prominent. There is a 3.5- meter bronze statue of President Clinton in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, along with Bill Clinton Boulevard. There have also been cases where boys have been named after Bill Clinton.
Pro-American sentiment is also documented in public opinion studies, including Gallup’s U.S./Global Leadership Report. In 2015, 85 percent of Kosovars approved of American leadership in the world, making Kosovo America's most supportive ally.
The U.S. has been involved with Kosovo’s state-building, a major contributor financially and politically, and is widely perceived by the Kosovars as being the most powerful and important ally. American presence in Kosovo has benefited the country in several ways as documented by the U.S. State Department.
There is some concern that Trump’s arrival might weaken American support for Kosovo, though U.S. support was confirmed during the 9th anniversary of its independence this February. Kosovar support for Hillary Clinton in 2016 was more emotional than ideological. Kosovars are more conservative than the U.S. Democratic Party, particularly in regard to social issues.
The world may be rethinking American influence under Donald Trump, but Kosovo will most likely remain supportive. America’s role in Kosovo has been of profound importance and will likely continue in the country’s continued state building efforts.
Rrezart Dema, Teaching and Research Assistant, Universum College, Kosovo.