Here Comes Kosovo

Russia fears Kosovo will set a precedent - 15 Feb 08: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0D1sKalkAE

February, 2008

Europe will get a new state, Kosovo, on Sunday and the long, bloody unraveling of Yugoslavia will be concluded 17 years after the first war of its dissolution broke out in Slovenia. That is cause for celebration. I say celebration although Serbia will rail against what its prime minister calls “this fictitious state on Serbian territory,” and the Russian bear will growl, and Balkan tensions will flare for a while, and lawyers will fret over precedent. The fact is the independence of Kosovo is justified, unique and unavoidable. There is no other way. Serbia lost a nationalist gamble on Kosovo a long time ago; the differences stemming from it are unbridgeable. Further delay of the inescapable can only damage the region.

So, come Sunday, I am reliably told, Kosovo will proclaim independence and early next week major powers — including the United States, France, Britain and Germany — will recognize the new state. European Union foreign ministers meet Monday and may agree on a “platform” statement saying conditions for recognition have been met. A clear majority of the 27 European Union members — certainly no less than 20 — are expected to recognize Kosovo rapidly. Cyprus, with its Turkish-occupied northern third, will lead the holdouts. Other European Union states that are recognition-reluctant, some out of concern over separatist minorities, include Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Greece and Bulgaria.

Unanimity would be nice, but broad consensus is sufficient. Thanks largely to the work of Wolfgang Ischinger, the German ambassador to Britain, the European Union will be united enough. More important, the United States and Europe will march in step, not a frequent occurrence of late. “This has been a common endeavor illustrating the way we and Europe ought to work together,” said Frank Wisner, the former U.S. ambassador to India who labored fruitlessly with Ischinger last year to bring Kosovo and Serbia closer. Wisner’s view: “There was never an attempt by anyone in Belgrade to reach out to a Kosovar Albanian.” Reaching out to Kosovo had scarcely been the Serbian thing in recent decades. Slobodan Milosevic, the late dictator, set Serbia’s murderous nationalist tide in motion on April 24, 1987, when he went to Kosovo to declare that Serbian “ancestors would be defiled” if ethnic Albanians had their way.

Milosevic’s quashing of Kosovo’s autonomy was central to his conversion of Yugoslavia into “Serboslavia.” The revolt against his bullying brought independence to former Yugoslav republics from Croatia to Macedonia. Serbs will kick and scream, but Kosovo is just the last piece of a dead state to go its inevitable way. Albanians accounting for about 95 percent of a Kosovo population of 2.1 million cannot be reconciled with a Serbia that suppressed, beat up, evicted and killed them until NATO’s 1999 intervention. Belgrade is no Berne: a Pristina inside Serbia would always be Pariahville. But, Serbs protest in their blind pursuit of an untenable moral equivalency, the Kosovo Liberation Army were no kittens. Nor, once the Serbian genocide against Bosnian Muslims of April to September 1992 was completed, was the emergent Bosnian army. That’s right: persecute a people with enough savagery and they will in the end unite, rise up, fight and go their own way.

What will Serbia do now? Vojislav Kostunica, the nationalist prime minister, says he won’t allow “such a creation to exist for a minute.” That’s been the nihilistic Serbian drumbeat ever since United Nations Resolution 1244 of 1999 made clear that a U.N.-overseen and NATO-protected autonomy in Kosovo would extend only until “a final settlement.” Belgrade never wanted to settle. I expect Serbia to make modest trouble but stop short of violence and cutting off Kosovo’s electricity. Some of the 120,000 Serbs in Kosovo may hit the road. Serbs in the pocket north of Mitrovica may be encouraged to go for partition. But the recent election of a pro-western Serbian president, Boris Tadic, will be a force for restraint. So will U.S. and European pressure on Albanians. Kosovo’s prime minister, Hashim Thaci, has been making gestures to Serbs: that’s positive.

Russia will call an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting. It will scream. But it’s backed the wrong horse. Europe is right to demonstrate that it will not cave to Moscow’s pressure. Ultimately, Serbia will want to move toward European Union membership. Kosovo is not Transdniestria or Abkhazia or South Ossetia. It is an anachronistic remnant of a now defunct country, Yugoslavia, a province that has been under U.N. administration for eight years pending a final settlement impossible within Serbia. Milosevic rolled the dice of genocidal nationalism and lost. In the long run, I believe this outcome will be positive for Serbia. Instead of dwelling on medieval battles, victory-in-defeat symbolism, shrinking borders and a poisonous culture of victimization, Serbia will begin to see what it wrought and look forward — to the West rather than the East.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/14/op...ml?ref=opinion

In related news:

Kosovo may influence Russian ties with Georgia breakaway regions

Russia could be forced to reconsider its relations with two Georgian breakaway regions if Kosovo declares independence and it is recognized by other states, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday. A separatist province in southern Serbia, Kosovo is expected to unilaterally declare its independence on Sunday. Russia has repeatedly said that granting Kosovo sovereignty could set a precedent and trigger a chain reaction for secessionist regions throughout the world, including in Greece, Spain, Georgia, Moldova and Cyprus. But Western countries supporting Kosovo's independence insist that the case is unique, and that there is no threat of the weakening of international law. "The declaration of sovereignty by Kosovo and its recognition will doubtlessly be taken into account in [Russia's] relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Still, Russia confirms its consistent intention to seek a peaceful settlement for the Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-South Ossetian conflicts within current formats and counter every attempt to solve the problem by force," the ministry said.

The statement followed a meeting earlier on Friday between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the presidents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Sergei Bagapsh and Eduard Kokoity. The Russian minister discussed the consequences of Kosovo's independence for international law with the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics, which declared independence from Georgia following bloody conflicts in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse. But Moscow repeatedly said Russia will not recognize the sovereignty of South Ossetia and Abkhazia if Kosovo's independence is recognized. During his final annual news conference as president on Thursday, Vladimir Putin said that if Western countries acknowledge Kosovo's independence, Russia has no plans to seek "non-legal" retaliation.

Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council and Serbia's long-time ally, maintains that Belgrade and Pristina should continue seeking a compromise, and calls for security and humanitarian issues to be rectified in the province. Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia ended a conflict between Kosovo Albanians and Serb forces in 1999. Serbia's territorial integrity was fixed in UN Security Council Resolution 1244, adopted in 1999. The European Union is expected to approve a decision to deploy a 2,000-strong police and justice mission and a EU civil administration in Kosovo on Saturday night. The new mission, to be reinforced by a NATO contingent, is expected to replace a UN mission deployed in the region since 1999. However, Russia's Foreign Ministry stated on Friday that only the UN Security Council can take the decision to change the format of the international mission in Kosovo.

"We are convinced that Security Council resolution 1244 is valid. And we draw the attention of our EU partners, who have said a great deal lately about their desire and decision to send an additional mission to the territory, that a change in the international makeup in Kosovo is possible only on the basis of an according decision by the Security Council," the ministry's official spokesman Mikhail Kamynin told the Russian Vesti TV channel. He also said Moscow hoped the UN would restrain those countries that are pushing the Serb province to declare independence. "Debate on the Kosovo problem at the UN Security Council should have a restraining influence on those forces that have been pushing Pristina toward independence," Kamynin said.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20080215/99347542.html

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