OpEd

The threat of the void

Western chancellors do not wake up every day thinking about Kosovo or Serbia. In fact, recent developments in the world are only diverting attention from the Balkans. And in this regard, whenever we see any Western attention to the Balkans, it is important not to miss that opportunity. As recent events have shown us how quickly this attention can disappear by running after the next crisis in the world. Meanwhile, there will be a gap in our region. The Western attention gap has historically proven detrimental to our national interests

"The world is at breaking point," said President Biden in July 2021, when he addressed the UN General Assembly for the first time. But perhaps even he himself did not believe that the events that will soon follow will bring this prophecy of his to life. Not since World War II has the global order come so close to breaking point.

In Europe, the Russian occupation of Ukraine is challenging the security architecture that has kept the European continent at peace for the past 70 years. Escalation of fighting has again brought back the possibility of nuclear confrontation between the great powers, transforming a regional conflict into a global war. Meanwhile, outside of Ukraine, Russia is fanning the world's simmering conflicts. We experienced this on our skin on September 24 in Banjska. In another European country, Azerbaijan put into practice the main Russian goal: that the new order can be established by force. Thus, Azerbaijan finally took control of Nagorno-Karabakh. So all that Europe thought it had left behind: the occupation of sovereign countries, force as a means of conflict resolution and ethnic divisions are now back on the European political scene.

In the Middle East, this week's developments collapsed any hopes for building peace and stability in the region. Hamas terrorist attacks have ended any possibility of dialogue and diplomatic settlement with Israel. On the other hand, Israel clearly seems to have launched a revenge campaign which will further fuel the schisms between the Arab states and Israel. What is currently a local war risks turning into a regional conflict. In this regard, Iran continues to be the main inspirer, supporter and organizer of terrorism in the region. Iran's intentions to produce nuclear weapons made it the most threatening factor to the stability of the region. With the latest escalations, this threat becomes even more immediate. Also, with its drone program, Iran has shown how a regional malign actor can fuel conflicts far beyond its own geographic borders.

In Asia, China is closely following the developments in Ukraine and the Middle East in order to use these global crises to cement its dominance in the Asian continent. The increasingly aggressive military exercises on and around Taiwan are the choreography for the future that China projects. Xi Jinping has now more formally demanded that the military be ready to occupy Taiwan by 2027. Although China's actions are local, its aims are global. It aims to redesign the global order based on its strategic interests. Xi Jinping officially aims to position China as the dominant global power by 2049. This will put China on a direct collision course with the US. As the American National Security Strategy admits, today China is the only country in the world that has real diplomatic, economic, military and technological potential to topple the US from the throne of global leader. And although China is the most serious threat to global order on the Asian continent, it is not the only one. North Korea's military, and in particular nuclear, capabilities continue to grow. Its close cooperation with Russia, China and Iran is creating a common front in the war against the Western order. In India, rising ethnic intolerance and Modi's autocratic behavior are cause for concern in the world's largest democracy.

And this geographical panorama is taking place against an extremely fragile global background. Climate change is now an existential threat to humanity. The lack of drinking water and sufficient food is directly fueling conflicts over basic resources. According to the WHO, 250,000 people die every day as a result of climate change. In particular, the Russian occupation of Ukraine has disrupted food supply chains for the world's poorest countries, mainly in Africa and Asia. In addition, it has deregulated the energy market, thus fueling political and economic crises across the globe. The lack of global cooperation is increasing the likelihood of another pandemic like COVID-19. The last pandemic alone has killed 7 million people. The uncontrolled development of artificial intelligence and its eventual militarization constitute one of the most serious threats to the survival of humanity.

Although most of these risks have existed before, the speed of their degradation, the impact of technology, global interconnectedness and the lack of a consensus to manage political differences peacefully are the innovations that have brought the world to the "breaking point".

So in short, I tried to paint the international background against which our small country finds itself today. The reason why I decided to do this is to convey the message that the world today is preoccupied with much more urgent and important priorities than the Balkans. Western chancellors do not wake up every day thinking about Kosovo or Serbia. In fact, recent developments in the world are only diverting attention from the Balkans. And in this regard, whenever we see any Western attention to the Balkans, it is important not to miss that opportunity. As recent events have shown us how quickly this attention can disappear by running after the next crisis in the world. In the meantime, there will be a gap in our region, and the gap of Western attention has historically proven to be harmful to our national interests.