What does the "comprehensive defense concept" bring: Is Kosovo going to bring back the General People's Resistance and Social Self-Protection from the time of the SFRY?

Source: Fejsbuk/Aljbin Kurti

Kosovo's Defense Minister, Ejup Maqedonci, stated that Kosovo was developing "a much broader concept than mandatory military service" to prepare citizens for "reaction and defense." However, for most experts, it is completely unclear how this would be implemented in practice, especially whether and how the Serbian community would be involved.

"We are building a comprehensive protection concept, which means that we will give every citizen a role in protection, security, and emergencies. Soon, this concept will become public, and we have a path ahead of us to engage all citizens in defense and security," Maqedonci said last week.

Vuk Vuksanovic, a senior researcher at the Belgrade Center for Security Policy, says that this is a "very dubious statement" because Kosovo - does not have an army.

"It's a very dubious statement to announce the concept of total defense when you don't have a full-fledged army, considering that your main problem is the lack of financial resources and the absence of an adequate international sponsor for such an ambitious project," Vuksanovic says.

He recalls that the Kosovo Assembly adopted a declaration and declared an army, but emphasizes that the Kosovo Security Forces are not an army.

"The Kosovo Security Forces are not an army, they are not equipped like an army. The fact is that they actually aren't because they haven't gone through a series of operational stages set by NATO to be considered an army. Despite individual arms procurement transactions from certain states, like Javelin missiles from the US or drones from Turkey," Vuksanovic says.

He directly connects Maqedonci's announcements with similar messages from Belgrade about reinstating mandatory military service, but claims that neither side explains what such concepts would entail.

"We see that both in Belgrade and in Pristina, the concept of total defense is being announced, but in reality, neither side explains what that concept entails. Does it only involve the recruitment process and the process through which individuals undergo military training, or does it involve what it entails in countries that implement it, such as Singapore, Switzerland, or Scandinavian countries where the entire society mobilizes? But that would then mean the involvement of certain institutions, like education or healthcare, as well as the private sector and non-profit and non-governmental organizations," Vuksanovic explains.

He warns that the key problem is that such a defense concept is applied by states with completely different geopolitical circumstances and levels of socio-economic development than Kosovo and Serbia.

"Hence, the question arises whether such a concept could even be applied," Vuksanovic believes.

Vuksanovic warns that the key dilemma is what such a defense concept would mean for the Serbian community in Kosovo: from the north to the enclaves.

"On one hand, we have Serbs living south of the Ibar River, who, due to the fact that they are physically surrounded by Albanians in enclaves, and have had to integrate into Kosovan or Albanian structures for their own survival. Does this then imply that they will potentially be recruited into the Kosovo Security Forces, and undergo training for a hypothetical conflict in the north?" Vuksanovic says.

On the other hand, he notes that Serbs from the north, due to their geographic proximity to Serbia, have had a different way of life from their compatriots south of the Ibar, so it's unclear how such a concept would function there.

"Could this be any form of political or organizational precursor to Kurti's further efforts to gain firmer control over northern Kosovo? Here, one question leads to another without any answers. It's a million-dollar question," Vuksanovic emphasizes.

University professor Nexhmedin Spahiu emphasizes that behind Ejup Maqedonci's statement about the "comprehensive defense concept" lies a message that Kosovo is also preparing for war and warns that by moving away from the implementation of agreements, the danger of such a scenario is increasing.

"I don't know how that concept is envisioned, but the situation is not the best. The agreement reached between President Vucic and Prime Minister Kurti is not being implemented. Moreover, we have other incentives such as the situation regarding the dinar... Instead of the parties getting closer to implementing the agreed-upon agreement, they are moving away, and if it is not realized, the danger of war is very high," Spahiu emphasized.

He says that this should concern all parties involved in reaching an agreement.

Commenting on Ejup Maqedonci's announcement of the preparation of the "comprehensive defense concept," Spahiu admits that he doesn't know what that would mean in practice, but he has no doubt that the defense minister wanted to send a clear message that Kosovo is also preparing for war.

"I don't understand military issues, and I don't know what that actually means, but I think Maqedonci wanted to convey that Kosovo is also preparing for war if Serbia attacks us. I think that's the essence of that declaration. What it will actually mean, I don't know," he stated.

When asked to comment on how the Serbian community would be involved in that concept, which should involve all citizens, Spahiu says that the best indicator is the experience of the former Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav People's Army.

"I don't know how he envisioned that. No country can defend itself or be monolithic if all its citizens do not feel equal, do not love the country equally, and do not behave the same towards it. The case of the former Yugoslavia showed that. It had one of the strongest armies in Europe but fell apart because some citizens in that country were not satisfied with it. A large and powerful army is useless if its citizens do not love that state," Spahiu concluded.

Analysts from the Serbian community, from Gracanica to North Mitrovica, say that the Serbs are not informed about the intentions of the authorities in Pristina.

Aleksandar Gudzic, an analyst from Gracanica, believes that the announced concept of "comprehensive protection of Kosovo" is exclusively aimed at militarizing society and lacks grounding in facts, especially regarding the possibility of Serbia's military intervention.

"Kosovo political elites are working on the militarization of society. They use fear and a state of psychosis they have created within the Albanian public regarding Serbia. Today, Kosovo faces no threats," Gudzic says.

Commenting on the announcement by Defense Minister Ejup Maqedonci that Kosovo will receive a "much broader concept than compulsory military service to prepare citizens for reaction and defense," Gudzic says that Minister Maqedonci must answer the crucial question of who Kosovo needs to defend itself from.

"We assume he knows something we don't. Today, Kosovo faces no threats. In my opinion, this is directed against Serbia and the Serbs. I assume he believes that Kosovo faces danger from Serbia, although Belgrade's official stance is to negotiate and has no ambition for a military incursion into Kosovo," Gudzic says.

He also questions the content and concept such a reform would entail.

"We need to see what content and concept this reform would have. We need to see that document and strategy, that plan," Gudzic says.

However, he remains reserved about how the Serbian community could be involved in such a "concept" due to the fact that the Kosovo Security Forces maintain continuity from the former KLA.

"Perhaps these institutions have changed, perhaps the people at their helm or in the command structures are no longer those responsible for the suffering of the Serbs, but in the Serbian community, the key perception of the Kosovo army or the KSF is the former KLA," Gudzic says.

He emphasizes that the fear of the Serbian community is understandable, considering not only the events of the nineties but also after the arrival of international peace forces in 1999.

"The distrust of the Serbs stems from the time of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which committed terrible crimes against Serbs and was responsible for the expulsion of 230,000 Serbs from Kosovo. When the Serbs talk about the Kosovo army, they always have in mind what happened in the nineties and the early 2000s, such as attacks on the Serbs, abductions, and looting," Gudzic concludes.

Similarly, Miodrag Milicevic from the NGO Aktiv in Kosovska Mitrovica shares this view.

He states that the Serbs in the north are not familiar with the idea of the "comprehensive protection concept" announced by Minister Ejup Maqedonci, and it is unclear what citizens would defend against in a situation where significant NATO forces are deployed in Kosovo and as well as Kosovo Security Forces.

"It is difficult to comment based on just one statement about what it's about and what concept will be applied to establish such a platform and overall body that will not be solely military but will involve the engagement of civilian forces, ordinary citizens in potential defense against 'whatever'," Milicevic says.

The presented idea mostly reminds him of a previously seen model from the former Yugoslavia.

"It resembles a model we had the opportunity to see in the former Yugoslavia, such as Territorial Defense, Civil Protection... But, the question is, what purpose does it serve, what is it intended for when we have a strong presence of NATO or KFOR, and we also have the Kosovo army," Milicevic concludes.