Saturday, February 02, 2008

Kosovo: The Next War?

While progressive Americans try to select the Democratic candidate most likely to extract the U.S. from Iraq another crisis brews that will test the next president. The issue of independence of Kosovo from Serbia will come to a head within the next month or so potentially pitting the U.S. and some of the E.U. against Serbia and Russia. Americans tend to view the last Balkan war under Bill Clinton as a "Good War" where American might some how stopped aggression and genocide. The reality is more complicated and challenges the concept of Wilsonian Democracy popular in both sides of the American political monolith.

Diane Johnstone, one of most incisive of American critics of the U.S. actions in the Balkans, sums up American behavior under Bill Clinton:

"To provide a casus belli, the Clinton administration orchestrated sham negotiations at the French ch√Ęteau in Rambouillet. The U.S. abruptly promoted Hashim Thaqi, the head of the armed "Kosovo Liberation Army", to head the Kosovo Albanian delegation, shoving aside more reputable Albanian leaders such as Ibrahim Rugova. No direct encounters between the Serbian and Albanian delegations were even allowed. Both were ordered to accept a comprehensive plan drafted by the United States, allowing for NATO occupation of Kosovo. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright bullied Thaqi into reluctantly accepting the ultimatum, with back-stage assurances that he would eventually get his own "independent Kosova". The Serbs had agreed to the principle of autonomy of Kosovo, and their parliament had drafted a proposal--totally ignored at Rambouillet. But the Serbian delegation rejected the ultimatum, which included an annex that would have allowed NATO occupation of the whole of Serbia. This rejection was the result Ms Albright sought. On the pretext that Serbia had "refused to negotiate", NATO could wage its victorious little "humanitarian" war."

Now however the finishing touches are being put on the situation with independence being a done deal:

"
This year, the world has been provided with the spectacle of much more prolonged sham negotiations. For weeks and months, the West's semi-official media have put out "news" reports that the negotiations to settle the Kosovo problem were not getting anywhere. This was not news because the negotiations were framed in such a way that they could not possibly succeed.

"The Serbian and Albanian sides can't agree", the pseudo-diplomats say of their pseudo-diplomacy. They mean, the Serbian side has not agreed to the Albanian demand for an independent Kosovo. This was the only proposal with U.S. support. It amounted to yet another ultimatum to the Serbs. The Albanians knew they had the support of the United States and NATO, who are occupying Kosovo militarily. They had no incentive to bargain. They could just wait for the negotiations to fail, sure they would be given what they want by occupying Great Powers."

Of course now a resurgent Russia is to blame as well:

"The West is putting the blame for this failure on Vladimir Putin. The servile press is puffing up Putin's status as the latest world class bad guy, motivated by "power" and a perverse desire to annoy the virtuous Americans. Since the Americans back the Albanian demand for independence, the Russians, out of contrariness, back the Serbian position.

This is not exactly accurate. The Serbian position is to offer very comprehensive autonomy to Kosovo, a self-government just short of formal independence. The Russian position is to be ready to support any agreement reached between the two sides.

Western reporters and commentators refuse to grasp what this means. It means that the Russians are insisting on genuine negotiations, between the two parties, the Serbian government and Kosovo Albanian separatists. They are not saying what the outcome of such genuine negotiations would be. They might reach some sort of compromise providing for some sort of independence. The point is that such an agreement, reached by both parties, would be legal under international law. Independence proclaimed unilaterally by Kosovo Albanians, without negotiated agreement with Serbia, would constitute a clear violation of international law. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly warned that a unilateral proclamation of independence could provoke further interethnic violence in the region and set a dangerous precedent for many other countries with ethnic minorities.

In the level of principles, the contrast is not between the U.S. backing Albanian Kosovo independence and Russia backing Serbia. It is between Russia backing diplomacy and the United States backing force."

Of interest is the position of Hillary Clinton who stakes out a position that will further estrange Russian-American relations for the foreseeable future as noted here.

Pravda has the latest Russian Foreign Ministry statement.

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