The Foreign Service Journal, October 2022

10 OCTOBER 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS Balkan Challenges I agree there’s a Balkan storm brew- ing, and Serbia is instigating it (along with the Serbia-affiliated province of Bosnia), as Denis Rajic and Marko Attila Hoare write in the July-August FSJ (Speaking Out) . And, yes, Russia provides funds, inspiration, and more to these extrem- ists. Kosovo is the flashpoint du jour, yet Bosnia and Montenegro are also causes for concern. But I differ with authors Rajic and Hoare on a couple key points. First, the lead international response belongs not to NATO, but to the European Union and Serbia’s Balkan neighbors, with vigorous U.S. support. NATO’s role is essentially peace- keeping, within a framework of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Those are more hands-off politically (as they should be). They are also subject to Russia’s veto, limiting NATO’s scope of action. We in Washington don’t like to acknowledge limits on NATO, but the reality is that most NATO governments crave some U.N. blessing for their deci- sions. That’s okay, however, since E.U. members, aspirants, and partners are the right locus to determine carrots and sticks for Serbia; its chauvinism is rooted in the economics of corruption and trade rather than security issues. My other disagreement is about Rus- sia’s role. We have seen in the past that Belgrade has little compunction about throwing Moscow overboard when it suits. Tee up the right decision-making for Serbia, and its brotherhood with Rus- sia will not pose an obstacle. If this was true in the recent past, it is more the case now, when Russia shows weakness mili- tarily and economically and earns scorn for invasion abroad and rot at home. True, some people in Serbia and ethnic Serbs in neighboring countries may choose to invoke Russia to advance their agenda, but centuries of cynical politics have taught them not to rely on foreign saviors. (In fact, I would argue that Western Balkan peoples have become expert at playing foreign forces off against one another, but that’s a discussion for another time.) By all means, let’s rise to the chal- lenge in the Balkans and uphold our val- ues, as the authors urge. But let’s keep our focus on the attitudes and actions of people in the region, especially the troublemakers leading Serbia astray, if we want to make a real difference. Christopher J. Hoh FSO, retired Arlington, Virginia No Easy Decisions Transitions! What a timely topic for the focus of the July-August Journal . Here is one memory to help those coping with evacua- tions and other abrupt transitions recall how tough these issues have always been. Years ago, while working the Congress for then–Under Secretary of State for Management Richard Moose, I can still recall a series of special “M” staff meetings trying to figure out how to respond to severe (really severe!) air pollution in Southeast Asia due to forest fires, a heat wave, volcanic residue, etc. Some of the issues I can recall being considered were: What could—and would—MED predict about health risks? Should evacuations be mandatory or voluntary? Who is “essential”? What should be done with and for non-State, non–U.S. government employee American citizens? And of course, what would be the budgetary impact? Plus, what prec- edents were we setting? The main and most useful precedent was probably trying to deal with such crises systematically. In a social media world, these considerations must be even further time-compressed and dif- ficult. Thanks again to the Journal for raising them. Bob Hopper FSO and CS employee, retired Falls Church, Virginia Supporting Evacuees Congratulations on the July-August edition of The Foreign Service Journal and the many articles concerning family issues. I read with interest Donna Scaramastra Gorman and Jessica Hayden’s excellent article on evacuation. However, I would like to highlight the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) Evacuation Support Network, which has helped Foreign Service families when they are evacuated since the early 1980s. It began with tele- phone trees shortly after the Iran hostage crisis when it became clear how little support families were given by State during that crisis. Today, we have more than 100 volun- teers ready and willing to support these families, and we communicate by email, Facebook, and other social media. Since the Arab Spring in 2010, we have helped more than 1,500 families. Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake,