(Forbes) – President Donald Trump added a new line to his foreign policy resume this week, repeatedly insisting he brokered an end to the violent conflict between Serbia and Kosovo, even though the Kosovo War ended more than two decades ago — a bizarre and inaccurate claim as the president looks to tout his dealmaking skills in the final week of the campaign.
During a Nebraska rally on Tuesday, Trump claimed Serbia and Kosovo had been fighting for centuries, but this bloody conflict supposedly ended after Trump told the two countries’ leaders he was unwilling to make any trade deals unless they agreed to stop killing each other, a successful maneuver the president predicted will “save a lot of lives.”
Trump made an almost identical claim on Sunday, telling a crowd in New Hampshire he brokered a Serbia-Kosovo peace deal that cut off decades of bloodshed and ended with the two countries leaders’ “hugging and kissing” in the White House this year.
In reality, the brutal 16-month war between Serbia and ethnic Albanian groups in Kosovo — which was a region of Serbia at the time — ended in 1999, and while tensions and scattered violence continued into the 21st century, it’s inaccurate to suggest the two countries were “fighting” each other directly.
Trump helped negotiate an economic normalization deal between Kosovo and Serbia this year, but that agreement mostly involved economic and transportation links, and it did not solve tougher geopolitical issues like Serbia’s refusal to recognize Kosovo ever since the country declared its independence in 2008.
The White House and the National Security Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and the Trump campaign redirected a request to the White House.
“I think they’d been fighting for 400 years, if you want to know the truth. But they’d been fighting for a long time,” Trump said Tuesday. “They want to make a deal, all of a sudden two months ago, [Serbia and Kosovo’s leaders] are in the Oval Office hugging and kissing.”
Trump is fond of talking up foreign negotiations on the campaign trail, citing them as evidence of both his foreign policy expertise and his prowess as a dealmaker. In particular, he has often touted the economic and political normalization deals signed this year between Israel and Sudan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Experts say these agreements — signed with countries that were not directly at war with Israel — were significant, but they probably weren’t the landmark steps toward Middle East peace that Trump claims. But Trump’s claim he solved a violent 20th-century conflict in Kosovo is harder to understand.
Trump framed his Serbia-Kosovo economic deal as a key distinction between him and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, suggesting Biden does not have the stamina for those negotiations. Ironically, Biden was directly involved in the U.S. response to the Kosovo War. As a U.S. Senator, he supported NATO airstrikes against Serbia in 1999, a controversial measure often credited with helping to end the fighting and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.