Republicans in the European Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee convened a hearing on the Stability and Security of the Western Balkans on Tuesday. The hearing aimed to address the concerns of House Republicans regarding the Biden administration’s perceived insufficient response to escalating tensions in the Western Balkans, particularly in northern Kosovo.
In the corridors of power in Washington DC, as soon as the notice of the hearing was disseminated a day before the scheduled date, a storm of outrage swept through the ranks of Republican members of Congress who were not sitting on the House Foreign Affairs committee. The absence of Richard Grenell, the former Special Presidential Envoy for Serbia and Kosovo who brokered the Serbia-Kosovo Agreement in 2020, left many Republicans eager to make a point about Kosovo turning into a hotspot under the Biden administration scratching their heads.
According to sources speaking to The Pavlovic Today, in a Republican-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee, it would have been a” logical step to capitalize” on Richard Grenell’s recent trip to Kosovo, especially now that it has the potential to escalate into a much larger conflict in Europe after Kosovo’s PM, Albin Kurti, derailed the Ohrid agreement. Against US advice, Kurti unilaterally forced the entry of elected mayors on a mere 3.4% vote into the municipal buildings in northern Kosovo, where the Serbian population, who boycotted the election, resides.
The congressional sources informed The Pavlovic Today that once the notice of the European Committee hearing concerning the Serbia-Kosovo crisis went out, Republican members of Congress who are not sitting on the committee were outraged that Congressman Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield), the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Europe and Rep. Michael McCaul ( R-Texas), the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee didn’t invite fellow Republican Richard Grenell to testify.
“What the hell is going on?” a chorus of perplexed Republican voices echoed throughout the halls of Capitol Hill.
Word on the Hill is that Congressman Kean “did not even know” that Grenell was the Special Presidential Envoy for Kosovo and Serbia under the Trump administration.
“The people who were organizing the hearing didn’t even think of Richard Grenell because they don’t know the Serbia-Kosovo issue,” a Congressional source told The Pavlovic Today.
“They failed to invite the very man who played a key role in one of the biggest foreign policy achievements of the Trump administration in 2020.”
Republicans express discontent with Rep. McCaul’s leadership
Notably, Congresswoman Claudia Tenney was absent from the hearing, leading to speculation about the reasons behind her absence as the guest at the hearing.
While Rep. Tenney is not a member of the committee and could not participate in the line of questioning, sources within Congress conveyed to The Pavlovic Today that neither Kean nor McCaull had reached out to her to request her expert insights on the Western Balkans and Serbia-Kosovo crisis that could help the members of the European subcommittee prepare.
The situation took an explosive turn on the morning of the hearing when it became a topic of discussion on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” show, widely followed within the Republican Party’s voting base. Bannon raised the question, “Why is Ric now sitting here this morning and not over on Capitol Hill in a Republican-controlled committee?”
Addressing the issue, Bannon directly inquired with Grenell, who, ever the diplomat, responded with, “I have no idea. I don’t know the answer.”
Following the exchange, influential Republicans started voicing among themselves their dissatisfaction with Rep. McCaul’s leadership, asserting that he is “not a good leader” and should not be the chairman.
McCaul, in response, the Pavlovic Today was told, has placed the blame on Congressman Kean, stating that Kean is the subcommittee chair, and “this was merely a subcommittee hearing,” not a hearing of the full House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Insiders in the Republican party have revealed that discontent with McCaul’s handling of the Foreign Affairs Committee is spreading, with discussions about the possibility of appointing a new chairman in the near future gaining momentum.
During the hearing, Rep. Darrel Issa, in the minds of many Republicans, stood out as a stand out questioner, displaying a deeper understanding of the ongoing stalemate between Belgrade and Pristina.
Issa delved into the heart of the matter, raising concerns about Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s unilateral actions, which he described as “well-documented” and “a major obstacle to progress.”
One of the key questions raised by Rep. Issa centered on Albin Kurti’s lack of responsiveness to public and explicit requests made by the United States to de-escalate the situation. He asked, “What and how should we be dealing with, quite frankly, a head of state who is not part of the solution?”
The Pavlovic Today reached out to Ric Grenell to inquire about the events of the 24 hours preceding the hearing, but he declined to comment. However, he did agree to respond to questions regarding the expertise level displayed by the House Republicans who posed inquiries during the Serbia-Kosovo hearing.
“What I would say is if you’re an elected Congressman, and you don’t have the ability to understand the issue of Kosovo, Serbia, but you serve on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, you should get off the committee. Because it’s embarrassing the line of questioning that many Republicans were doing,” noted Grenell.
The plot thickens as a prominent figure among the Republican ranks, who requested to stay anonymous, keeps lamenting on “a missed opportunity.”