After tensions continued to rise in the Balkans over the weekend as protests between the Serbian minority of northern Kosovo and ethnic Albanians led to the injury of dozens of NATO peacekeeping forces, the U.S. decided that a show of force was necessary.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Air Force conducted a low flyover of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) that had been announced earlier in the week. According to a statement by the Sarajevo Times, the flyover was described as "a sign of the strong partnership between the United States and the Armed Forces of BiH." A USAF statement said that the flyover would serve as an indication of the "permanent dedication of the U.S. to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and multi-ethnic nature of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
Despite the U.S. having berated authorities in Kosovo for making unilateral moves that have exacerbated ethnic tensions with Serbs, and caused Belgrade to send Serbian national forces to the border with Kosovo, the U.S. decided to send a strong reminder to Serbia that Washington still has a military presence in the area.
Meanwhile, on the same day, Russia, which has a history of supporting Serbian interests, demanded that the U.S. stop its "false propaganda" about ethnic Serbian problems and their issues with Kosovo.
The recent unrest in the region began when Albanian mayors were placed in charge of predominantly Serb areas in Kosovo. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed NATO for the violence saying, "Not only have they shown their incompetence...[they] themselves became a source of unnecessary violence, an escalation factor."
Zakharova went on to say that NATO peacekeepers "supported Pristina's xenophobic aspirations, basically turning into terror accomplices" by defending local authorities instead of acknowledging that the peacekeepers were trying to protect Serbs from a crackdown by Kosovo authorities.
"While looking for the guilty, mediators from the U.S. and the EU should muster up some courage and look in the mirror," Zakharova added.
"To de-escalate, decisive steps are needed, and not half-measures like an idea proposed by the U.S. to temporarily 'move' the newly-minted 'mayors' from municipal buildings to other facilities," she concluded.
Leading up to the renewed conflicts there have been calls for Kosovo to create Serbian municipalities for Serbian-dominated areas in Kosovo. Pristina authorities though view the creation of such establishments as a precursor for a breakaway statelet to be formed. According to ZeroHedge, as tensions continue to rise, several dozen of NATO KFOR troops have been injured in the ongoing protests.
On Tuesday, NATO released a statement saying, "NATO strongly condemns the unprovoked attacks against KFOR troops in northern Kosovo, which have led to a number of them being injured. Such attacks are totally unacceptable. Violence must stop immediately. We call on all sides to refrain from actions that further inflame tensions, and to engage in dialogue." While calling for more peaceful protests, NATO does plan to send additional troops to the region.