Contemporary Southeastern Europe
The Trump Election and its Consequences for the Western Balkans
Donald Trump’s stunning upset victory in last year’s U.S. Presidential elections sent shockwaves through nearly every political corridor in the democratic world, and seemed to confirm, at least in the immediate days and weeks leading to his inauguration, that American politics were radically breaking from conventional norms. Following the political fallout of the so-called “Brexit” campaign the same year, it appeared that the politics of populism, and more specifically national populism, were beginning to replace the international order established in the wake of the Cold War two and a half decades prior. Within the Western Balkans – the region comprising Albania and the countries and territories of the former Yugoslavia – Trump’s victory (and simultaneous defeat of Hillary Clinton) was met with a wave of reaction ranging from disbelief among socio-political Europhiles to hubristic “I-told-you-so” vindications from Euroskeptics. Perhaps no other political leader in the region seemed more elated to hear of Trump’s victory than Vojislav Šešelj, the (in)famous long-time leader of the far-right Serbian Radical Party, who had not only supported and predicted a Trump victory months before the election, but saw such an outcome as a direct defeat of the American foreign policy model established in the 1990s, long anathematized in Serbian nationalist circles. Indeed, opponents of the perceived American New World Order throughout the Balkans and the wider European region held to a convoluted sequence of logic that interpreted a Trump victory as a defeat for the internationalism of the European Union, a reclaiming of some sort of national sovereignty, and a triumph of popular (and populist) democracy. Included in these narratives is a sort of appreciation for the leadership of Vladimir Putin as the consummate counter-symbol to organized transnational institutionalism.