They are a kind of clubs where members of the Congress of similar interests gather, they are voluntary, they do not spend the budget, and they are known to us as “caucuses”. There are as many as 460 of them in the current assembly of the American Congress, until recently there were close to 700 of them, so it is not an excessive joke that says – If you have any interest, congressmen have a group for it.
Thus, in the current, 117th assembly of the US Congress, there are also caucuses for baseball, hockey, car maintenance, cannabis caucus, bourbon caucus or bicycle caucus. Representatives of people sit in them, influential politicians who are fighting in this way for the realization of their policies, inclinations, and even ideologies.
We are mostly familiar with those “hard”, foreign policy, caucuses that are established as a kind of friendship groups, around cooperation with a particular country. There are many of them, almost as many as there are countries in the world, but their influence on the formation of US state policy is not particularly important.
When these days one of the seven American congressmen who signed the letter to President Biden is marked by the domestic media as a member of this or that caucus (usually Kosovo or Bosnian), one should also keep in mind the results of a survey on the caucus engagement of members of Congress. According to that research, each congressman (member of the House of Representatives) is on average a member of as many as 34 caucuses, and each senator on average member of 18 caucuses. It is also said that at least one congressman signed the application form for as many as 132 congressional caucuses.
So the impression that is gained from the domestic press that Congressman XY, the signatory of the letter to Joseph Biden, deals only with Serbia, Vučić, the Balkans, Bosnia and Kosovo, and that he barely manages to do anything else is grossly deceiving. It is very certain that the gentleman is a member of another 30 or more congressional caucuses and that Vučić, Serbia and Kosovo are equally interesting to him as football, blood cancer, Brazil and the dairy industry, where he is also a member of the caucus.
The letter from seven members of the US Congress is addressed to President Biden, so it is one of the very common offers from the package of lobbying services, which you can get from politicians in Washington. Given Balkan habits and budgets, this package might look something like this – You get two meetings in Washington at the level of a member of Congress and a senior administration official, one visit by a congressman (or smaller group) to your country, an interview with one of the media in Washington and, of course, a letter from a group of congressmen to President Biden on a topic of your choice for which you are writing the first draft. All of this in two years, at a price of…
The fact that the letter of a congressman to Joe Biden receives headlines in newspapers in the region is its highest reach and greatest political effect. Not because the signatories have no political influence in the United States, on the contrary. They are important and respectable politicians, but the way their influence is used cannot “reach” more than the low-circulation front pages in the Balkans. The congressmen are not to blame for that at all, they have done their part.
The problem is with the local expectations and the expectations of the “subscribers” to this type of services, that such a letter will bring some political change. The problem is with political leaders and their supporters, who expect a change of the course towards Serbia, great pressure on Belgrade, a new leaf in America’s attitude towards the authorities in Serbia, from something that is an everyday lobbying routine in the United States. Everything could have been heard in the past few days under the guise of analyzing the congressional letter, and in fact open political biases, combined with a huge ignorance of basic political techniques.
What is usually called the “course” of America towards Serbia seems diametrically opposed to what the American congressmen described in the letter to their president. This “course” only looks like this in the last few weeks – a large joint exercise of Serbian and American paratroopers in Niš, a visit of a high-ranking Pentagon official to Belgrade, opening of a huge technological hub of the American giant NCR in New Belgrade (investment of 100 million dollars and five thousand employees). This “course” does not speak differently of Serbia in any of its steps, except as an irreplaceable and key partner in the Balkans. This “course” has been an open sponsor of the Serbian-Macedonian-Albanian free trade initiative “Open Balkan” for several months.
The fact that the new presidential administration will deal more actively, and perhaps more aggressively with unresolved Balkan issues (BiH, Kosovo), can only benefit the interests of Serbia, because it also wants such an approach, because it does not like the situation as it is now and has been for years. And that is a state of unresolved problems that divert enormous political and economic energy, so necessary to keep pace with the European environment.
Whatever the content of the letter of the group of congressmen, and we did not talk about it for a reason, it will not cause any corrections in the American policy towards Serbia. That policy has already been formed and we are already seeing its effects. We have already mentioned some of them. And the letter to Biden? Well, soon we will probably see another one from the same address (Congress) also sent to the President of the United States, with content that will be completely opposite to the one from November 5. The only question is whether it will also get the front pages and the place of the most important news on televisions that hope for a “turnaround”.