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President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci (C) at a state ceremony after parliament passed a law creating a 5,000-strong standing army. Photo: Erkin Keci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Kosovo voted last Friday to create a standing army. The move comes a decade after independence from Serbia, which was enraged by the move and went so far as to threaten military intervention.

The big picture: Kosovo's vote has divided the international community, writes Ryan Scherba of Balkan Insider.

  • Serbia immediately called for a UN Security Council meeting — with support from Russia — where the Serbian and Kosovar presidents traded barbs on the world stage.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Kosovo released a statement fully supporting the transformation of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) into an army.
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called the formation of the army “ill-timed.” The EU shared that view, stating: “The mandate of the KSF should only be changed through an inclusive and gradual process in accordance with Kosovo Constitution.”

Between the lines: The increase in the capacities of the KSF has been fraught with controversy. Some states, like Russia and Serbia, contend that it violates international law, while the U.S. and many EU countries consider it a sovereign right for Kosovo. Some of the hesitation from the international community is because Kosovo is bypassing a change to its constitution, which would be blocked by Kosovo Serb representatives.

What to watch: President Trump penned a letter to Kosovo's president urging him to agree to a comprehensive solution with his Serbian counterpart — and to sign it at the White House.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 2 mins ago - Health

Omicron travel bans are a sign of what's to come

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The travel bans and border closures prompted by the Omicron variant likely won't fully prevent its spread, but that won't stop countries from leaning on the measures.

Why it matters: The rapid speed at which countries turned to travel bans with the emergence of Omicron indicates border controls will increasingly become a weapon against infectious disease — whether or not public health experts agree they are effective.

21 mins ago - Politics & Policy

GOP fights itself on shutdown politics

Reporters question Senate Minority Whip John Thune before the Republican Party's weekly lunch on Tuesday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are scrambling to reach a deal with a bloc of 15 Senate Republicans threatening a government shutdown to force a fight over the Biden administration's vaccine mandates.

Why it matters: The push to defund the mandates — by holding the short-term government funding bill hostageis largely symbolic, and highly controversial within the Republican Party. A shutdown as early as midnight Friday could trigger everything from national park closures to delays in receiving Social Security checks.

Stacey Abrams launches second campaign for Georgia governor

Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images

Stacey Abrams, voting rights activist and former 2018 candidate for Georgia governor, is running for the position again in 2022. Abrams would be the first Black female governor in the country.

Why it matters: Abrams caught national attention in 2018 by narrowly losing an election to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a state held firmly by the GOP for nearly two decades.