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From the Inbox

by campaign2008
February 19, 2008

Responding to CFR.org’s Daily Analysis Brief, After Kosovo’s Secession, reader Dan Darling writes:

Your points concerning the declaration of independence by Kosovo are well-taken. But I noted that several others have been left out. To begin with, how long are NATO forces (or an eventual substition of an EU contingent) supposed to linger in Kosovo protecting Serb monasteries and preventing street fights amidst a population rife with deep ethnic andcultural divisions? This proposes an untenable position for NATO at a time troops have become a precious commodity for which many manpower-stretched alliance members are unwilling to dispense to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.

Another unmentioned potential precedent from Kosovo’s secession: the triggering of separatist sentiments within ethnic-minority Albanian populations of surrounding states, including Montenegro, Macedonia (which underwent a parallel episode in 2001) and even Serbia itself. While no doubt limited, it is unlikely that Greater Albania aspirations will besuddenly extinguished by Kosovo’s self-declared independence. There is also the potential for a reverse case, in which the Serb-populated Rpublika Srpska unilaterally declares its separation from the Bosnia-Herzegovina federation.

Also, according to many accounts Kosovo serves as a den of criminal activity including the trafficking of both weapons and humans, amongst other issues. All while under the administration of the United Nations and the policing of NATO forces. How will the situation be improved when substituted by Kosovar self-government?

Exactly why Kosovo stands as a separate case from the bloody – though brief – internal wars that led to the de facto partitioning of Trans-Dneister, Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the jurisdiction of their authorities is yet to be properly explained by Western authorities eager to rubber-stamp approval for Kosovo’s independence. On this ground Serbia has a better case than Kosovo, as NATO intervention in 1999 was initiated as a means to quell Slobodan Milosevic’s paramilitary ethnic cleansing campaign and protect the ethnic-Albanian minority – not to carve out and create an independent statefrom within internationally recognized borders.

While the survival of Prime Minister Kostunica’s government will be one issue, a potential re-emergence of retrograde Serbian nationalism (the kind which allegedly provides safe haven to accused war criminal General Ratko Mladic and which plotted and carried out the assasination of former Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic) will be another. In the past two years Serbia has seen its post-Milosevic aspiration of invitation into NATO’s Partnershipfor Peace (PfP) program recognized, while also accepting – peacefully – the formal ending of its loose confederation with Montenegro (as well as that country’s subsequent declaration of independence). The positive shift in Belgrade’s stance towards the West since 2000 and its restraint in the face of fulminations from nationalist quarters of its population now stand to dissipate in the wake of Pristina’s declaration.

In its place is the potential for Belgrade’s re-orientation from the Western orbit towards that of Russia. A resurgent Russia may now gain another toehold inside of Europe at a time when pressure on the Kremlin to remove itself from Moldova and Georgia has hit the proverbial wall. All of the anticlimatic crumbs served up to Belgrade by Brussels (includingpolitical and economic agreement with the EU) might possibly do little to assuage Serb public anger, no matter the western-leanings of President Boris Tadic, or the Serbian youths desire for travel visas, as well as a clean break from the past and a path towards the future.

The diplomatic impasse regarding Kosovo’s future no doubt called for one of the two parties to cut the Gordian Knot as a means of pushing the issue forwards. And it would be unreasonable to think that Kosovar Albanians would eventually be willing to cede their authority once again to the dictates of Belgrade. But a more logical step for Washington, London, Paris, and others to take before recognizing Kosovo’s independence would beto allow for the partition of the Serb-populated areas north of the Ibar River in Mitrovica and their absorption back within Serbia’s borders. This would provide some balm for the wounds of the revanchist segments of Serbia’s population, and undercut the possibility of a political swing behind the Serbian Radical Party. That in turn would allow for thecontinued Euro-path – no doubt desired by the majority of Serbs – to continue. Instead what now emerges is a disputed, economically-bereft state with an aggrieved minority population bordering a country with claims to its territory – all while lying within a region prone to instability and outbreaks of bloodshed.

Many Serbs probably recognized long-ago that Kosovo was lost to them and grudgingly accepted this, but does that mean they will stand easily aside and demand nothing of their government should their ethnic-cousins in Kosovo be treated to harassment or violence? Perhaps NATO forces will remain in Kosovo forever and another round of Balkan bloodbaths will be avoided, or perhaps now that independence has been declared and Kosovo receives international recognition from certain quarters the general population will work towards building unified state – one with its past safely buried. But what does it say of a newly-independent country that at its inception international forces need to be stationed on its soil to ensure an internecine struggle does not ensue? And how long is thatsituation tenable?

Sincerely,

Dan Darling

Europe Goverment & Military Markets Analyst, Forecast International Inc.

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