Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Balkans rumble...

If you have not yet received the hint that history is about to kick you in the backside - here is another reminder from the place that produces too much history to consume locally.
As negotiations go nowhere fast, an independent Kosovo is widely being accepted as inevitable. But the consequences will be far-reaching, not just for the Balkans, but for the EU, the UN and relations between the West and Russia.

If the path to hell is paved with good intentions, then the way to political irrelevance may well be paved with pointless negotiations that everyone knows will fail.
Few have any illusions about what that situation might look like. Kosovo has remained nominally part of Serbia since the war ended in 1999, but the small, ethnic-Albanian province has long made it clear it will be happy with nothing short of independence. Both the EU and the US have been supportive of that ultimate goal. Serbia, though, refuses to give up control of Kosovo and has consistently been backed by Russia. Kosovo's potential United Nations path to independence -- as outlined by special envoy Martti Ahtisaari this spring -- has been blocked by Russia's Security Council veto.

Absolutely No Alternatives

Now, with former rebel leader Hasham Thaci winning elections in Kosovo last Saturday, it is no longer a question of whether Kosovo will declare unilateral independence. It has become a question of when.

"Our vision and our stance are very clear," said Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu following the most recent meeting of the troika on Tuesday. "It's the independence of Kosovo and its recognition. There are absolutely no alternatives."
My visions involve the EU looking the other way as Serbian tanks move to finish the job with the Russians playing "Big Brother will protect you from the kids from Strasbourg" part.
Kosovo issue has already become yet another irritant in relations between the West and Russia, and it threatens to erupt into all-out diplomatic conflict. On Wednesday the Russian member of the troika spoke out against US policy in the region. "The Americans believe that Kosovo's de facto separation has already taken place," Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko told Russia's Izvestia newspaper. "We look at the situation from the point of view of international law, not pseudo-reality."
His comments come just days after Holbrooke lobbed a verbal grenade in the other direction. "The Russians have decided to act very unpleasantly," Holbrooke told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. "Vladimir Putin's government wants to bury the Dayton Accords, for one reason: Russia wants to use every means to be a world power again."

Reljic, for his part, thinks the Russians are right to be upset. "If you look at Russia's position, even since 1999, not for a single moment did the Russians indicate they would play along with this. It was a policy of 'eyes wide shut' not to look at what Russia was saying all the time."

But no matter who is right, the result might be a bad one for Europe. Serbia is rapidly losing faith that the European Union will invite it to join any time soon. Its close alliance with Russia could develop into a weakness for EU security policy in the region. That, at least, is the future Reljic sees for the region.

"History does not stop the day the US recognizes the independence of Kosovo. A new phase, even more complicated phase might start," Reljic says. "We are not seeing any kind of endgame in the Balkans ... it could throw back the region for many years."
Also keep this in mind. 60 years ago, Serbians were a majority in Kosovo. Muslim Albianians, in fact, simply out-bred the Serbians in their own heartland. History belongs to those who show up. If a Serbian woman only has 2 kids and starts her family in her 30s, while her Albanian neighbor has 6 kids starting at 18 - the demographic math is telling. Now we find Kosovo with a significant Albanian Muslim majority (helped by the ethnic cleansing of ethnic Serbs overseen by EU soldiers with the US looking the other way) wanting to break off and be its own country. Is that the precedent that Europe wants to set? By 2050 I can see the same thing in Brussels, BE - Malmo, SW - Rotterdam, NL - a few choice places in France, and so on. Be very careful, Europe, what standard you set or what tut-tuting you give to the Serbs. You're next. Don't forget the warning the Italians received the other day. Halal sausage, I am sure.

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