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Kosovo and Its Impact on U.S. Foreign Policy

The struggle for Kosovo between Christian Serbs and Muslim Albanians dates back to 1389, when the Serbs were defeated by, and their lands annexed to, the Ottoman Empire.  Muslim rule lasted over four centuries and resulted in several waves of forced migrations of Serbs from Kosovo.  The current Albanian majority there was achieved more recently—the result of the policies of the Axis occupation (1941-45), which included the killing of an estimated 10,000 Serbs, the expulsion of another 100,000, and the introduction of Albanian settlers.  The de-Serbianization of Kosovo continued under Tito’s rule (1945-80), during which the country acquired many attributes of a separate Albanian state—borders, a flag, a capital, a supreme court, an education system that promoted the Albanian language, a university with teachers and textbooks from Albania, as well as cultural and sporting exchanges with Albania.  In 1981, after Tito’s death, Albanians in Kosovo demanded that the province be elevated to a republic with the right of secession.  This provoked a Serbian reaction that facilitated the rise of Slobodan Milosevic, which, in turn, was cited by Albanians as a justification for the activities of the Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).  A downward spiral of ethnic suspicion and strife ensued, culminating in the Yugoslav wars.

From 1996 to 1999, the war in Kosovo was an internal conflict between...

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