June 20, 2024

The Trump family’s business in the Balkans: a problem for US foreign policy?

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Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is building a hotel in Serbia. At a memorial site for NATO bombing of all places. This could become a problem for the second Trump administration.

BELGRADE – On the 25th anniversary of the NATO bombing of Serbia, the government of dictator Aleksandar Vucic is leasing a memorial space in the center of the capital Belgrade to an American company. It is now clear that Jared Kushner, son-in-law of former US President Donald Trump and husband of his favorite daughter Ivanka, could take over the bombed-out former headquarters of what was left of the Yugoslav People’s Army in order to build a hotel. complicated there. news agency Reuters It reported on the corresponding contract concluded between Kushner Real Estate Company and the Serbian Ministry of Construction. Richard Grenell, Trump’s right-hand man in the Western Balkans, was also involved in the deal.

Former US Ambassador Richard Grenell and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner at a press conference at the White House. © Drew Angerer/AFP

Trump’s environment is at work in the Balkans: conflicts of interest are inevitable after winning the US elections

Could Trump’s real estate deals become a foreign policy problem if they win the election? There are some indications: Grenell supported the project during his time as special envoy for peace negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo. The lion’s share of the financing is said to come from the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Kushner maintained close contacts with the authoritarian monarchy during the Trump era. Therefore, potential conflicts of interest would be complex.

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Vucic’s government plants the myth of victimhood in Serbia and rents a monument to Trump’s son-in-law

There is also the political dimension of memory to the project: the remains of the army headquarters serve as an unofficial memorial to the dead of the bombing through which NATO tried to persuade the Serbian nationalist president of the rest of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milošević, to withdraw. From Kosovo in 1999. For this reason there was sharp criticism of the project. The US-led intervention was contrary to international law at the time. Hundreds of civilians were killed. However, in the tradition of Serbian nationalism, the government under Aleksandar Vucic elevated the memory of it to a myth of victimhood.

The General Staff of the Yugoslav Army was hit by several BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles
Parts of the headquarters of the Yugoslav People’s Army: the building has fallen into disrepair since the 1999 NATO bombing. © IMAGO/xGoodMatex

Real estate projects in Serbia and Albania: Trump supporters made contacts during his administration

Reported that the Belgrade project New York Times (New York Times)It is part of a larger complex in the Western Balkans designed by Grenell and Kushner. This also includes two hotel projects on the Albanian coast. Here too, Grenell maintained close contacts with decision-makers such as Albanian President Edi Rama after the Trump administration’s tenure. A luxury hotel, 1,500 apartments and a museum are to be built to commemorate the victims of NATO bombing in Belgrade.

Kushner told the newspaper before signing the deal that he was “very excited” to be able to implement the project. The project was started by Donald Trump in 2016, before he announced his candidacy for the presidency. the The New York Times The value of investment in the Serbian capital was estimated at approximately 500 million US dollars. The lease is valid for 99 years.

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Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and former US Ambassador Grenell, rejects these accusations

Kushner denied to the newspaper that the deal with the Saudis and the Vucic regime had anything to do with political connections since his father-in-law’s time in power. He and Grenell have recently met repeatedly with high-ranking politicians in the Western Balkans, with whom Grenell has maintained good contacts since the peace negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo, which also failed because of him.

Anonymous sources told the newspaper that Grenell hopes to become Secretary of State in the second Trump administration. Referring to the entire Western Balkans construction complex, Grenell said in an interview with an Albanian television station summit“No one should ever apologize for making money.”

An American expert sees “the worst corruption trends” during the Trump era in Kushner’s work in the Balkans

Corruption expert Robert Weissman, of the watchdog organization Public Citizen, saw this The New York Times Different. This plan appears to continue some of the “worst corrupt tendencies” of the Trump administration, namely tying political connections to one’s private business. During Donald Trump’s time in office, there were several actions that were closed by the Supreme Court when he resigned.

Weissman called on Kushner to suspend work at least until after the US elections in November. In addition to conflicts of interest, the foreign policy of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic could also lead to problems in the second Trump administration. Not only has he repeatedly raised concerns about the Kosovo issue, but he also maintains good communications China And Russia.

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Compensation for the memorial: Kushner Vucic’s government sponsors a museum for victims of NATO bombing

Finally, the problem of political memory mentioned by the American Gateway correspondent in the Balkans remains POLITICO To put it bluntly: for many Serbs, the construction project is like “the Taliban building luxury real estate on the site of the Twin Towers in New York.” To calm this, Serbian Construction Minister Goran Vesic confirmed in a press statement that his government is still in possession of the museum built by Kushner and “solely decides its contents.”

Kushner will likely co-finance a museum that will likely become part of the nationalist propaganda that has recently prevented rapprochement between Serbia and Kosovo. (KB)