Frozen European Conflicts Begin to Thaw

Longstanding tensions reanimate as America pulls back.

The background: After communism fell in the 1990s, ethnic hatreds in southeast Europe erupted. Resultant wars and genocides eventually ceased due to Western intervention, but the conflicts didn’t end — they were temporarily frozen. Now tensions are reheating amid America’s decreasing global influence.

Two crises: Two crises in the region could potentially resurrect and ignite major regional wars.

  • Near Ukraine: After the Cold War, Transnistria declared independence from Moldova. The unrecognized state, bordering Ukraine, recently asked Russia for “protection.” If Russia absorbs Transnistria, it aquires a launch pad for attacking key Ukrainian cities.

  • And elsewhere: In Bosnia and Herzegovina — collectively known as Bosnia — the leader of Serbian region Srpska declared he would seek independence for Serbs if Donald Trump won reelection. A move toward independence could trigger war with Bosnia’s other regions.

Why it matters: The declining security situation in southeast Europe reflects a global shift back toward wars of conquest. As America retreats from its role as the “world’s policeman,” conflicts that paused due to American pressure will likely resume.

A case study: Modern Bosnia, created via Western intervention in 1992, illustrates the instability of the West’s global order. The country is a forced mishmash of ethnicities, languages, and cultures that don’t cohere. Serbs want independence; with diminshed U.S. military intervention, leaders may seize the opportunity.

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