The Marshall Center Welcomes Three Serving U.S. Ambassadors for a Balkans Panel Discussion

amb and Val in 105

The Marshall Center Welcomes Three Serving U.S. Ambassadors for a Balkans Panel Discussion

By College of International and Security Studies
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

GARMISCH– PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (Nov. 4, 2021) – On November 1st, 2021, the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies had the honor of hosting three serving U.S. Ambassadors based in the Western Balkans:  AMB Yuri Kim, U.S. Ambassador to Albania; AMB Kate Marie Byrnes, U.S. Ambassador to North Macedonia; and, AMB Judy Rising Reinke, U.S. Ambassador to Montenegro.

The Ambassadors were welcomed by the Director of the Marshall Center Maj. Gen. (ret.) Barre Seguin and given a Marshall Center briefing. The Ambassadors also engaged in a very active roundtable discussion with Marshall Center faculty members about the main challenges and possible solutions to strategic competition in the Balkans.

In the afternoon, the Ambassadors held a panel discussion for the Marshall Center’s Balkans Regional History and Analysis Seminar where participants joined members of the faculty for an in-depth regional discussion moderated by Dr. Valbona Zeneli, the Chair of the Strategic Initiatives Department. The Balkans Regional History and Analysis Seminar is a new academic program requested by the senior leadership of U.S. Army Europe and Africa to deepen the understanding of the enduring impacts of history, culture, and related factors on the regional security environment of Southeast Europe.  Approximately twenty officers and civilian staff from U.S. Army Europe and Africa, as well as from U.S. Army V Corps, attended.

Topics of conversation included Russian, Chinese and Western influence in the Balkans, American strategic priorities in the region, regional identities, the role of history, combatting disinformation, regional challenges with corruption and democracy, NATO and EU integration, and the Defender Europe 2021 military exercises. The Ambassadors’ panel was highly appreciated by the participants as it provided a senior executive level perspective on U.S. engagement by illustrating the importance of diplomacy and whole of government approaches in the region.

The Ambassadors prioritized Euro-Atlantic integration of the region as a necessity. “EU integration is the number one strategic goal for the US in the region, as this will provide the stability the region needs” said AMB Reinke.  AMB Yuri Kim added that, “We do not want an ally who is a vulnerability in this current era of great power competition,” pointing to the fact that the West would do its best to help develop the region and help move it away from corrupt practices. She highlighted her three priorities in Albania citing, “democracy, defense, and business” as being closely interlinked to support the country to fulfill its potential as free and prosperous democracy.

The Defender Europe 2021 exercises, which were the largest military exercises ever conducted in the region, demonstrated the remarkable capabilities of the region to adequately prepare, organize, and cooperate between security institutions. Exercises such as these will help ensure NATO readiness, mobility and immediate response capabilities. The Defender 2021 exercises were a “point of pride” and had a “huge psychological impact” on the region said AMB Byrnes.  

The Marshall Center values and prioritizes its relationships in the region and continues to work with Western Balkan partners by conducting courses, tailored seminars for parliamentarians, special events, assisting in strategy development requests, and engaging with Marshall Center alumni.  We are grateful for the Ambassadors’ visit and look forward to their continuing support and our future collaboration.