Putinism in the Balkans - October, 2007

During Soviet times it was an ideology, a particular sociopolitical belief system that cemented ties between various communist peoples. In post Soviet times, this ideological connection has been lost as various formerly communist peoples have begun discovering nationalism, religion and materialism. And this came at a time when Western ideological/political movements such as democracy and capitalism (represented by its military wing, NATO, and its financial wing, the IMF/WTO/World Bank) were gaining in power and popularity across the region. Although there are some military and economic alliances in existence today amongst former Soviet republics, I think this is a good time to begin a new ideological/spiritual/cultural movement that has its roots firmly planted in Orthodox Christianity. This ideological proposal, which foresees a union of Orthodox nations, can potentially bring closer together various nations such as Russia, Serbia, Greece, Cyprus, Ukraine, Armenia and... why not, eventually, Georgia. I think such a new ideological movement are essential in creating ties that can go past the geostrategic and economic ones that currently exists.

Arevordi

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Putinism in the Balkans: The Russian president tries to recover another lost sphere of influence

October, 2007

RUSSIAN TYRANT-IN-WAITING Vladimir Putin's plan to restore a one-man dictatorship in Moscow has caused anxiety in the thin ranks of Russian liberals as well as among partisans of secure independence in the former Soviet republics. It should also stimulate concern in Europe, the United States, and the Far East, since it is clear that Putin desires recovery of Russian spheres of influence, temporarily lost with the collapse of communism. Mostly unnoticed, Putin has resorted to a weapon that served his absolutist predecessors: pan-Slavic ultranationalism with the pretext of solidarity among Christian Orthodox peoples. The sharp point of this blade is visible in the troubled ex-Yugoslav successor states. Russia is reestablishing itself as a regional power in the Balkans. Putin and his cohort in the Russian business mafia have adopted Serbia as a surrogate, and continue to obstruct the full and legal independence of Kosovo. In Kosovo's neighbor Montenegro, which gained independence from Serbia last year, Putinite investors have bought up a considerable share of attractive beachfront properties, intending to revive the local tourist industry on a betting-and-brothel basis. Russian banking and other commercial operations are expanding in the so-called "Serb Republic" that occupies north and east Bosnia- Herzegovina.

Twelve years after the Dayton agreement to stop the fighting in that mutilated country, the "Serb Republic" continues to rule almost two-thirds of Bosnian land. Serbs use the continued existence of the Bosnian "Serb Republic" against U.S.-E.U. proposals for Kosovo independence. The arguments from Belgrade and Moscow are simple and brutal: if Kosovo becomes independent, the Bosnian "Serb Republic" will demand the same status. Meanwhile, the Serbs and Putin paint the Kosovo Albanians as potential al Qaeda recruits, with Serbian propaganda at home as well as inside the Beltway emphasizing that the Albanians are, in their majority, Muslim. This demographic fact is well known, but Kosovars and Albanians in general are not exclusively Muslim. And they have shown little propensity for Islamist ideology, notwithstanding Serb claims that independent Kosovo would become a "Muslim rogue state." Catholics account for 10 to 15 percent in the Kosovo population of two million. Catholic churches are found in most larger (and some smaller) towns, and Catholics were victims of Serbian violence before and during the U.S.-led intervention of 1998-99. Catholic clergy and intellectuals possess influence among their co-ethnics far beyond what their numbers might suggest. It is not by accident that the main street in Prishtina, the Kosovo capital, was renamed after 1999 for Mother Teresa, an Albanian from neighboring Macedonia. And Albanians remain so non-sectarian in their national sentiments that even if the West were to abandon them to the Serbs, it is almost impossible to imagine them turning to radical Islam as a solution to their frustrations. Albanians want to be accepted as Europeans, and not viewed as Middle Eastern intruders in the continent. Serbs and their sympathizers--including a lobby of former U.S. diplomats and functionaries--also threaten a serious upheaval if the Kosovo Albanians are granted complete freedom. The Serbs and their enablers warn belligerently that their defiance of Albanian majority rule will begin with seizure of the northern tip of Kosovo, which has a Serb majority as well as significant natural and other economic resources.

Russian meddling in this trouble zone is not mere posturing for the benefit of the Slav and other Orthodox publics. Russia is joined by China in using Kosovo as a foil. Beijing says it will use its U.N. Security Council veto to forestall a free Kosovo, because of its problems with Tibet and Eastern Turkestan, both regions where local non-Chinese claim their historic tenancy has been diluted by massive Chinese immigration and politico-economic domination. The Russo- Chinese anti-democratic pair in the U.N. is supported in their anti- Kosovo position by Spain, which cites nationalism among the Basques and Catalans as its worry. Cyprus backs Serbia because of its own partitioning between Orthodox Greeks and Muslim Turks, and Slovakia also opposes Kosovo's liberation. Why Slovakia? The Slovaks have a considerable history as Russian pawns--they commandeered the process of repression in the former Czechoslovakia after the Soviet intervention of 1968. But their leaders additionally play on fears, among the Slav majority, of their Hungarian minority of some 10 percent.

To most Westerners, the fate of Kosovo is eclipsed by the challenges in Iraq and Iran. Amazingly, however, Washington policy gadflies claim that nation-building in the Balkans--including the disastrous division of Bosnia-Herzegovina--has succeeded and provides a fruitful example to be imitated in Baghdad. Bosnian Muslims as well as Croatians and Kosovar Albanians say otherwise--that their confidence that outside intervention would benefit them has vanished as they witness UN and EU incompetence or worse in dealing with them. Failure to respond to Putin's intrigues in the Balkans will only encourage the new Russian imperialism elsewhere. Russia also blocks common international policies on Iran and Burma. Russian parliamentary elections will come on December 2, 2007, followed by the deadline for the U.N. negotiations on Kosovo December 10. U.S. policy must be consistent and principled, and must not give way in the face of Putin's machinations in Kosovo, lest a reinvigorated foreign offensive by Russia undermine the trend toward freedom in places far from, and far more prominent, than the small states of the former Yugoslavia.

Source: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Conten...4/237aemai.asp

In related news:

The Russian option: Some Serbs dream of a Russian alternative to the European Union


DOTTED across the Serbian north of the divided city of Mitrovica are pictures of its hero: Vladimir Putin. Russia, Kosovo's Serbs believe, has saved them from the independence demanded by its Albanians (Kosovars), who make up 90% of Kosovo's 2m people. It is too early to be sure they are right. But Western diplomats are worried by Serbia's dalliance with Russia. Marko Jaksic, a member of Serbia's Kosovo negotiating team, helps to run northern Kosovo. He is a deputy leader of the party of Vojislav Kostunica, Serbia's prime minister. If America and many European Union countries recognise a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo, he expects Serbia to offer Russia military bases “in Serbia, and especially on the border of Kosovo”. He adds that Serbia should abandon its bid to join the EU, and claims that Mr Kostunica thinks similarly but has less freedom to talk openly. Such talk is meant to send chills down Western spines. If Serbia gave up trying to join the EU, not only would it return to the isolation of the 1990s but it could also drag the whole region down with it. How serious is the risk?

Mr Kostunica's party is aligned with Mr Putin's United Russia party, and its official position is that Serbia should be neutral. Mr Kostunica has disparaged a potentially independent Kosovo as nothing but a “NATO state”. A source close to President Boris Tadic, whose party is in uneasy coalition with Mr Kostunica, concedes that, if Kosovo's independence is recognised, it will be hard to instil “European values” in Serbia. Even Serbs who would secretly like to be shot of their troublesome southern province fear that full independence would be disastrous. They predict that Mr Kostunica would, if not formally end the country's bid for EU membership, at least slow it down, as well as trying to punish countries that recognise Kosovo and companies that trade there and in Serbia. Yet the Russian alternative does not look appetising. The prospect of Russian bases in Serbia is “very unlikely”, says Ivan Vejvoda, who heads the Balkan Trust for Democracy, a big regional donor to good causes. Serbia is surrounded by the EU and NATO. “The Russian thing is a temporary, opportunistic thing, a balloon which will burst once we are over Kosovo,” he says. There is much excitement in Serbia about Russian companies moving in. On the list for privatisations that may interest them are JAT Serbian airlines, Belgrade airport, a mine in Bor and NIS, Serbia's oil company. Alexei Miller, head of Russia's energy giant, Gazprom, met Serbian leaders to discuss potential pipelines on October 9th. But so far Russian companies (except for Lukoil) have been notable by their absence. Russia is only the 18th-biggest investor in Serbia; the country's largest single exporter is owned by US Steel. The EU has poured lots of money into rebuilding Serbia. If Serbia kept on track, a lot more cash could come—and Russia offers little.

On October 15th Montenegro signed a “stabilisation and association agreement” with the EU, normally a step towards membership. Serbia could soon do the same. But a negative report to the EU from Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor at The Hague war-crimes tribunal, means that it must first be seen to do more to catch the fugitive Ratko Mladic. Ms Del Ponte will visit Serbia soon to check progress (the government has posted a reward for the missing general, 12 years after he was indicted). This suggests that the Russian option is, as one diplomat puts it, “loose talk”—for now. If many EU countries recognise an independent Kosovo next year, it will be their turn to call Serbia's bluff.

Source: http://www.economist.com/world/europ...ory_id=9993395

Putin calls for restraint over Iran and Kosovo


Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called on the West to show restraint over both Iran's nuclear programme and the future status of Kosovo, ahead of an EU-Russia summit here. Putin, in Lisbon for Friday's meeting, warned that the threat of fresh sanctions or even military action against Iran over its nuclear programme would only make the situation worse. And he called for "patience" on the question of the future status of Serbia's province of Kosovo, where the mainly ethnic Albanian population is seeking independence. After the United States on Thursday ratcheted up tensions over Iran's nuclear drive with a raft of new sanctions targeting the Islamic republic's military and banks, Putin warned against making a bad situation worse. "You can run like crazy carrying razors -- it is not the best way to resolve the problem," he said. Taking a peaceful approach towards North Korea in the controversy over their nuclear progamme had brought the international community closer to a solution, he said. Tehran insists it is developing a civil programme to produce nuclear energy, but the United States, Israel and other Western powers suspect it could be masking efforts to develop a nuclear military capability. On the issue of Kosovo, Putin said that Russia was respecting international law by opposing UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari's recommendation to give internationally supervised independence to the Serbian province.

"Why upset the principles of international law by encouraging separatism in Europe," he asked. "Don't you have enough problems in Spain, in Belgium?" In Spain, the central government is facing renewed violence from regional Basque separatist group ETA. In Belgium, there is increasing pressure in some sections of the relatively wealthy mainly Flemish speaking north for greater autonomy, or even independence, from the mainly Francophone south. Putin's comments came ahead of Friday's talks with EU leaders at Mafra, 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the capital Portuguese Lisbon, hosted by Prime Minister Jose Socrates whose country currently holds the EU presidency. The EU wants the talks with Putin to start to put relations back on track after a stormy summit in Russia in May. EU-Russia relations have been strained over a range of issue, including the status of Kosovo, sanctions against Iran, Russia's energy policy and an US anti-missile shield -- parts of which Washington wants to build in Poland and the Czech Republic. But with the victory of Poland's main opposition liberal, pro-European party in last weekend's elections, it looks likely that Warsaw's veto of closer links between the EU and Moscow might be lifted.

Source: http://www.africasia.com/services/ne...8.dpz21z8l.php

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