Although seventeen years have elapsed since NATO’s military intervention, policy makers should not assume that all conflicts in the Western Balkans have been assigned to history. Disputes continue to fester over statehood, territory, and political authority, compounded by the uncertainties of international integration. The promise of EU and NATO membership has been the key incentive to democratize each state and promote inter-ethnic co-existence. Without that prospect reforms falter and local disputes are revived. In the wake of the EU’s existential crisis and preoccupation with “Brexit,” enlargement is not high on the Union’s agenda. It seems unlikely that any country can be considered for accession for at least a decade. Such receding opportunities for membership will undermine Balkan commitments to the rule of law and can result in democratic reversals.
Prognostications of what the New Year might bring are more often than not a fool’s errand and pundits are usually better served with a laconic “more of the same” answer to what to expect. Usually, but not this time, for 2017 promises to be a very different year and quite possibly the beginning of a new geopolitical era. The last such watershed year in recent history was 1980 and it is worth remembering briefly the momentous changes ushered in by that year. The 1970s were a decade marked by a seeming retreat by the United States as the dominant Western power and a commensurate increase in the status and military might of its chief protagonist – the Soviet Union. Beginning with the Arab oil embargo in 1973, the US