KOSOVO: WHICH WAY FORWARD?
As per the week-end edition of the Financial Times, the Prime Minister of the Kosovo interim administration, expressed, concern at the possibility that there might be a delay in the United Nation’s decision on full independence, for the UN administered province. De jure, still a part of Serbia. As per Premier Agim Ceku, the possibility that there might be a ‘delay’, could potentially “spark renewed conflict in the Balkans.” Ceku blaming the possibility of any postponement of a decision by the UN Security Council, on Russia, widely viewed as being the only member of the ‘Contact Group’ of powers overseeing the negotiations on Kosovo’s future, as ‘pro-Serbian’. Seeking to tilt the playing field, even more in Kosovo’s favor, Ceku stated that the reaction in Kosovo to any delay for even a short amount of time, or anything short of total independence would result in:
“Great disappointment, loss of credibility in the process…loss of credibility of our government. There would be political instability”. See: www.ft.com .
Concerns, which were echoed by both other Albanian politicians in the province, as well as the UN appointed Administrator for the province, Herr Joachim Ruecker (see Reuters report on 4th of October in: www.reuters.com). This concern being expressed notwithstanding the fact that the province has almost twenty thousand NATO troops to secure it. If we ignore for a second, Pristina’s verbal gambit at threatening violence, what do we have concretely at present? At present, the UN envoy responsible for solving Kosovo’s status, Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, has all but stated that he favors full and complete independence, with some ‘safeguards’, for the ten percent of the population who are not Serbian. Originally, it was intended that the Security Council would vote on the matter by the end of this year. The reason for the delay, is that Serbia, notwithstanding various (not really great though) inducements, being offered to be ‘reasonable’ about the matter, and agree, has chosen not to. Indeed, with elections coming up, and a new constitution, proposed that all but restates the Serbian position, that Kosovo is an integral part of the Serbian nation, any likelihood of Serbian concession at this point, look to be non-existent. One can of course attack, as many of adherents of the Albanian cause in Kosovo do, the reasoning of Belgrade (see for example Tim Judah’s article in the New York Review of Books, on the 19th of October: “Serbia the coming Storm”). Fair enough. The point is however that we are not in a debating contest. The situation is, that de jure, in International law, Kosovo, is fully acknowledged as belonging to Serbia. Serbian agreement is needed, no matter how difficult that may be. Should and must be secured in order for the independence to be made legally valid. Of course, if the Security Council chooses to vote to grant independence to the province, then that changes things for all parties except for Serbia. Assuming of course, that Russia will let down its Serbian ‘friends’. Will it?
At this time it is difficult to predict what Russia will do. However it does appear that Moskva is thinking of doing a trade along quid pro quo lines, in which, in return for agreeing to some very truncated, but still, legally acknowledged ‘independence’ for Kosovo, it would secure a similar type of situation (modified independence) for the various statelets which it currently sponsors: Transdnestr, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. As per Russian diplomats, all three of these entities have as much right to some type of international recognition to being independent as Kosovo. As Putin himself, put it earlier this year, in a sort of ‘mais je ne vois pas ce qui ilya pour le Russe dans tout cela’ performance, he stated:
“If people think that Kosovo can have full independence, then why should we refuse the same to the Abkhaz and South Ossetian people?” see: www.russianprofile.org
It would appear that if Moskva obtained, something approaching a solid agreement, to this trade-off, than it is quite likely that it would sign off, on the above exchange. Of course, whether the Americans and the rest of the Contact Group would agree to this type of arrangement, is almost impossible to say. Certainly in the current environment, there does not appear to be any positive inducements that can be offered Russia, to agree to set Kosovo free. How could there be? The Russia of today is not the Russia of 1999, which reluctantly agreed, in a sort of ‘la force prime le droit,’ fashion to let NATO, make war unilaterally on Serbia. Times have changed. Now, a Russian agreement, is necessary to make this particular diplomatic kite fly (see Simon Saradzhyan’s article in www.themoscowtimes.com, and also a debate on this subject by Thomas de Waal & Zeyno Baran titled “Abkhazia-Georgia, Kosovo-Serbia: parallel worlds?” in www.opendemocracy.net ).
Assuming for arguments sake, that Russian can be in non-diplomatic verbiage, ‘bought off’, is the way forward for Kosovo to be independent? Should it be? I would argue, no. Why? Because, unless, Serbia itself, for whatever reason: billons of dollars in American or European aid, a concrete assurance about EU membership (pretty much the same thing), et cetera. Then the end result of Serbia being, in effect given a diktat, and Kosovo, being granted independence over the latter’s head, is that an irredentist situation, `a la the entre deux guerre period, will be recreated, in the Balkans. Now it would seem rather clear, that what would make Serbia agreeable to granting Kosovo independence, is that the frontiers of the province be re-drawn to allow for the northern ten to twenty percent to be allowed inside Serbia proper. The area in which most of the Serbian speaking population currently lives. Of course, the ruling elements in Pristina will violently object to any such arrangement, as being an outrage, an illegal partition. But, the long and the short of it is, that in absence of Serbian agreement to granting Kosovo independence, Serbian outrage will be voiced in equally loud and truculent manner. And, the last time that I checked, there are many more Serbs, than there are Albanians. If we have to alienate one people or the other, I much rather alienate the Albanians. Perhaps that is a sad, or indeed a cynical calculation, but such, dear reader are the dilemmas of diplomacy. Tant pis, get used to them!