Tuesday, June 26, 2007


"This in my mind is not good enough, because such kind of formula is not going to provide sufficient incentive for the two parties to negotiate seriously".

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, 20 June 2007, in www.b92.net.

"What is new is the opening of a debate regarding status, with a given deadline. If the discussions do not result in noticeable progress, then Ahtisaari’s proposals will be taken into consideration. There are also suggestions to propose a new negotiator, but for us this resolution is not acceptable....Personally, I think that the Bush-Putin meeting will be the deciding factor, because that [submitting the draft] would be a big provocation before a such a meeting where Kosovo will not be the only topic, so right now it is hard to say when the UN Security Council might vote on this resolution"

Serbian Ambassador to the United Nations Pavle Jevremović, 20th June 2007 in www.b92net.

After many many months of waiting and expectation, after almost five months from the date in which the United Nations, mediator for the province first announced his plan for modified independence from Belgrade, the diplomatic countdown has begun.With on the one side, the Americans and the British publicly announcing (in the words of the American Secretary of State, Dr. Rice):

"Serbia and Kosovo are not going to be part of the same body again".

Which in turn brought forth comments from Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica that any country which unilaterally recognized Kosovo as independent, would be have their Ambassador sent packing by Belgrade. With Kostunica accusing Washington as being the

"leader of in proposing that another Albanian State be formed on Serbian soil" (for both quotes see today's article on the subject in the International Herald Tribune in:www.iht.com).

With both sides clearly positioning themselves as the United Nation's Security Council prepares to possibly vote on a resolution providing for some type of measured 'independence' for the Serbian province, two questions raise themselves: one) what are the stakes for the various actors? two) how ultimately will 'climbdown'?

It is our surmise that except for the Albanians of the province themselves, none of the other actors in this particular game: Serbs, Americans, Russians, Europeans, UN, et cetera, have any real or deep interest in the underlying question. For the Serbs, retaining, de jure, if not necessarily de fact, the province, is almost entirely about national honor and prestige. Particularly for the current government in power, challenged as it is by ultra-nationalists. Ideally, if Serbia had been brought back into the concert of European nations in the aftermath of the overthrow of the former Milosevic regime, and showered with money, et cetera, than quite possibly we would not be facing this crisis. Of course there would have still have been some resistance by Belgrade to granting the province independence, but, with some sweeteners, such as a readjustment of the Serbian boundaries to take into account the predominance of the Serbs in the northern portion of the province, it would have been possibly to overcome it. Now matters are quite different, thanks to Mme. Carla Da Ponti...

As for the other actors, in all of their cases, prestige, of a particularly empty variety is the only thing that they care about in this crisis. For the Americans and the British, it is a (novel) case where they can pursue a 'pro-Muslim' policy; for the EU, it is a case of bringing forth evidence that a united Europe can and will see through such difficult projects as Kosovo to fruition. In the case of the perhaps the most important actor in this particular drama (most important because its cards have yet to be revealed to all and sundry yet), Russia, the entire questions of Kosovo is purely and absolutely a matter of prestige. To demonstrate that Matushka Roissya under the Putin Regime, unlike its discredited predecessor, is internationally recognized as a great European, indeed world power, whose voice on such matters must be recognized and taken into account. It is quite questionable to argue that Moskva has any real interests in this particular jeu, other than proving this point. Consequently, with none of the other actors besides the Albanians having any real, hard interests in the game, predicting the ultimate outcome, becomes relatively easy.

First, either the Security Council holds back or even fudges the resolution, or better yet (from Moskva's perspective) it is vetoed by Russia; second, there will be either a (failed) attempt at a hastily convened meeting of all the principals to resolve the matter, again allowing all of the respective parties to demonstrate their resolve and bon fides, to their respective constituencies at home or abroad. With the Serbs and the Russians as well as the British and Americans all showing their 'stuff', it will be at that point that the bargaining and the resolution of the crisis will take place. Most likely the outcome will be a negotiated one, in which, in return for some concessions on border adjustments (perhaps), as well as some promises for expedited EU membership for Belgrade, and some billions of Euros in economic assistance, Belgrade will bite the bullet and grudgingly accept the inevitable. An acceptance helped along by the threat of unilateral Anglo-American recognition of an independent Kosovo. With of course Serbian de jure acceptance, Moskva would be let off the hook, and, thus argue that it had secured Serbia important concessions, and, at the same time, prevented the crisis from getting out of hand. For the Europeans, any non-violent solution would be a 'good solution'. Whether it is continued Serbian de jure rule, Kosovo de facto independent, or even de jure independent. What counts is that the province continue to be under European tutelage, without anything in the way of violence to disrupt that situation. For the Albanians of course this solution, while perhaps delayed and probably not their ideal solution, comes close enough to it that they will also be willing to swallow

What is the likelihood of the above coming about? I predict that it is high with the only possible negative variable being that as long as the province remains peaceful, and, as long as the Anglo-Americans do not take the bit between their teeth and unilaterally recognize Kosovo's independence in the near future. Any such step would have a number of negative consequences, including: i) freezing in place the various antagonists; ii) using a counter vis-`a-vis Belgrade, which should only be utilized as a last resort, and, not initially. Hopefully and ideally it is the American State Department, rather than the ideologues at the National Security Council Staff, who will determine American policy in the upcoming crisis. If so, all might conceivably be well. If not: well than heaven help us.


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