As American citizens who fled from those wars and former representatives of the United States government, authors, human rights activists and academics who concern themselves with the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and its effects, we find Mr. Trump’s statements on these matters to be deeply disconcerting.
In 1999, Mr. Trump favored a ground invasion and likely occupation of Serbia to NATO’s targeted, albeit imperfect, bombings. This summer, he indicated that as President, he would not intervene when repressive regimes slaughter their own citizens. It is important to note that Bosniaks (Muslim) from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albanians from Kosovo and Croats were targeted and systematically killed during the Balkan wars. For those among us who are survivors who are Muslim, Mr. Trump’s statements calling for a ban of Muslims from entering the United States, if applied when we fled our homes, would have surely ended in our deaths.
More recently, he has not distanced himself from Vojislav Seselj, indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. During the Bosnian War, Seselj inspired terror in the hearts and minds of men, women and children during his militia’s violent invasions of villages carrying out a campaign of murder, rape and torture in Eastern Bosnia.
Today, Seselj is a member of the Serbian parliament and likely to run for Serbia’s presidency in 2017. In September, Seselj ‘welcomed’ Vice President Joseph Biden to Belgrade with a well-publicized political rally in support of Mr. Trump. He had previously called upon Serbian-Americans to vote for Mr. Trump. His platform continues to focus on violent rhetoric, the creation of a ‘Greater Serbia’, slowing Serbia’s progress toward joining the Europe Union, and espouses closer ties to Russia. He routinely burns NATO flags in public. He has also politically exploited state-sponsored murder in the unresolved case of Ylli, Agron, and Mehmet Bytyqi, three Kosovar Albanian American brothers who were executed and dumped on top of a mass grave in 1999.
Apparently, Vojislav Seselj sees Donald Trump as an ally in his cause. Mr. Trump has done nothing to disavow Seselj’s endorsement.
Because Mr. Trump seeks one of the most powerful positions in world, we take this opportunity to remind him that his policies would have been catastrophic for all of Southeastern Europe. The United States and NATO acted as a force for good in these interventions, although perhaps tragically late in Bosnia. Indeed, even more alarming to us, Mr. Trump’s position onNATO dovetails with that of the Russian Federation, which opposes NATO and its expansion in the region, including Macedonia and Montenegro. For those among us whom are survivors of terrible wars led by belligerent autocratic leaders, Mr. Trump’s professed admiration for Vladimir Putin is alarming, given Putin’s increased engagement with the leaders of Serbia and the Bosnian Serb entity who refuse to take responsibility for past crimes, including genocide. Russia has actively blocked Kosovo’s membership to the UN. Putin’s demonstrated disregard for human rights is self-evident with respect to a domestic crackdown on Russian civil society. Thus, a Donald Trump presidency aligned with Russian and Balkan extremists would not serve U.S. interests and could throw an already fragile region into full-blown crisis.
Therefore, we call on Donald Trump to disavow the endorsement by Vojislav Seselj, and his past statements on NATO’s intervention in the former Yugoslavia. He should embrace policies that saved many of our lives and can prevent human catastrophe.
First signatures Ajla Delkic, Richard Lukaj, Tanya Domi, Praveen Madhiraju, Amb. (ret.) Robert L. Barry, Amb. (ret.) Richard D. Kauzlarich, Schar School, Amb. (ret.) John K. Menzies, Shawn M. Byrnes, James Zogby, Kurt Bassuener, Ken Biberaj, Mirsad Hadzikadic, Valbona Karanxha, David L. Phillips, Shinasi Rama, Grid Rroji, Gerard Toal, Samuel Totten, Sarah Wagner, Martin Shkreli, Adisada Dudic, Meto Koloski, Elmina Kulasic, Steve Rukavina, Klara Buda, Nancy Y. Bekavac.