During his interview for Top Channel, Gabriel Escobar, the United States Deputy Assistant Secretary overseeing policy towards the Western Balkans countries dismantled Sali Berisha’s entire anti-American propaganda in three statements.
Firstly, Escobar rebutted Berisha’s claim that, if he wins in the upcoming local elections or manages to gather a certain amount of votes, then the United States will withdraw the sanctions that have been imposed against him and his family. In his statement the US official made it clear that there has been no precedent when the US authorities have withdrawn their sanctions because of certain electoral results. Many political leaders across the world often become popular in their countries because of their anti-American rhetoric. Milorad Dodik, the Serb leader of Bosnia gained even more popularity following US sanctions. The same can be said for several other leaders of the former Soviet republics. However, Berisha’s issue is that Albania is generally a pro-American country.
If Albania was Russia or China, then Sali Berisha most likely would have turned into a national hero. Albanians on the other hand are not happy to be led by an anti-American and Berisha is well aware of this fact. This is why he lies at his followers claiming that, if they win enough votes, the US will withdraw its sanctions. Gabriel Escobar’s statement however, cut short his hopes in this regards.
Secondly, Escobar made it clear for Berisha’s followers that their leader belongs to the past. This is a reiteration on the stance that the US do not want to deal anymore with Sali Berisha, which means that he is never going to be in power. However, he can remain as an anti-national alternative within the opposition. There are a few other anti-national movements in Albanian politics, but they have always been in minority. Therefore, adding another to the group will not be a serious concern. The issue however is that Sali Berisha is trying to falsely claim that his designation as non-grata is a consequence of personal hatred from certain US officials. He does not dare to come out as an anti-American, which among other things shows that he is also a coward.
Gabriel Escobar’s third statement was related to accusations that have been made, according to which, the United States is favouring Edi Rama. He stated clearly that the US is in an alliance with Albanian citizens and not Albanian politicians. This is a standard statement that all US diplomats have made since the fall of Communism in 1990. During the last three decades, US officials and diplomats insist that they do not support individuals in Albania, but only the country’s institutions. This is why the State Department’s annual report always has critical stances.
In today’s context, Escobar’s statement is an answer to all those who accuse the United States that it is supporting Edi Rama personally, which is not true. The United States support Albania’s institutions and as Gabriel Escobar emphasized, his country is in alliance with Albanian citizens. Furthermore, the relations between the United States and Albania are at the highest level that they have ever been.
To better understand the impact that Gabriel Escobar’s interview had had on Sali Berisha, one needed only to look at his recent press conference, during which he continued with his harsh attacks against the US Ambassador to Tirana, while trying to misinterpret Escobar’s statements, claiming that the United States are afraid that he might actually win the local elections. This is what happens when an old man starts to dream. He is reminded of his youth and at a certain point starts to believe that he is really young again.