by Aleksandar Jokic
Current Discourse on Kosovo
(Swans - June 4, 2007) Suddenly, the urgency to settle Kosovo's political status in the form of "supervised independence" is on the US imperial agenda. If one is to believe US officials who have been closely associated for a long time with US policy regarding Kosovo (the real name of this Serbian province is Kosovo and Metohija), such as Nicholas Burns, the US is taking a "regional approach" to this problem. Says Burns: "The Balkans region will not be stable, however, as long as Kosovo remains in a state of political suspended animation." Alas, words are cheap, and actions by the sole superpower clearly demonstrate that it is its interest and not "regional stability" that is the sole guiding principle. In fact, all principles, including the letter and spirit of international law, will be sacrificed in the name of those interests. Kosovo is still the best example of this, which by now should be an uncontroversial statement.
After years of neglect following the US-led NATO aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999 (the operation was called "Merciful Angel") and merely a year of "negotiations" between representatives of the Serbian government and an Albanian delegation from Kosovo, it was announced that the time had come for an imposed "solution" and that "no more negotiations" on the status of Kosovo could take place between those directly involved. One may wonder why such a sudden rush to grant independence to Kosovo, despite Serbia's opposition to giving up 15% of its territory and Russia's consistent position that any solution must be acceptable to both sides, thus virtually guaranteeing a Russian veto of any UN resolution granting Kosovo independence? And why continue to insist, in this context, as US officials do that "supervised independence" (whatever that might be) "is now the only way forward"? It is hard to see how this stubborn insistence on Kosovo independence could be reconciled with any concern for "regional stability."
No wonder then that we have witnessed an intense campaign to "explain" why independence for Kosovo is good, indeed the "only way forward," or attempts to induce Serbia to agree to this "solution" preferred in the West. These efforts range from tedious to grotesque.
Thus, disturbed by the prospect of Russia exercising its veto right at the UN against any imposed "resolution" between Serbia and its province of Kosovo and Metohia, Olli Rehn, EU Enlargement Commissioner, asks "While Russia generally condemns unilateralism, why does it yet threaten to use the veto in the UN Security Council -- the ultimate unilateral act?" Contrary to this gratuitous definition, the exercise of veto power is not the ultimate unilateral act, but it might more accurately be defined as the unilateral threat or use of force (also known as aggression) in international relations. It is hardly a contradiction (worth mentioning, much less a valid "argument") that Russia would condemn unilateralism whilst exercising its veto rights. Just as an individual can condemn unilateralism while exercising voting rights without fear of specious and misguided suggestions that one is ipso facto hypocritical.
Others, in the best tradition of car salesmen, are intent to opening the eyes of Serbian officials to a good deal they are being offered. For example, Carl Bilt, Swedish Foreign Minister, while on state visit to Japan, stated that "the EU would take a more positive attitude to accepting Serbia as a prospective [EU] member state if the country warmed toward an independent Kosovo." But who would buy this? No other state had to give up territory for dubious membership in EU that is, unlike Serbia, incapable of even agreeing on its own constitution. Furthermore, a Euro-skeptic could try to clarify things for Bilt in this way:
As the smart French General Charles de Gaulle clearly recognized, EU remains an incoherent idea as long as the UK is part of it, as a Trojan horse for US imperialism, hence Sweden should abolish all its European ties and join the energy rich regional Eurasian alliance of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). However, Sweden can do this -- "and simply as a prospect" -- if the country warmed toward an independent Vasternorrlands to be administered by SCO right away as of now. Do you get the picture?
Similarly, in his op-ed on the status of Kosovo Joschka Fischer tries to sell the Serbs the idea that essentially Serbia should swap Kosovo for potential membership in EU because "Serbia has a bright future with the EU, but getting there requires that it break with its own past -- on [...] Kosovo [...]." Certainly, the invitation to "break with a past" (coming from Germany) could appear to have merit, but again the Bilt point could be made in its German variation: "Germany should abolish all its European ties and join the energy rich regional Eurasian alliance of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). However, Germany can do this -- in prospect only -- if the country warmed toward an independent Bavaria which is to be administered by SCO right away as of now. Additionally, this might help Deutschland break further with its own past and obtain a bright SCO-future, full of affordable energy."
To show that pronouncements by academics can be more dismal than those by politicians we can look at an example of a Fulbright Scholar's wisdom on Kosovo acquired by merely spending a few months there. Timothy Kenny offers the ultimate argument in favor of Kosovo independence by crying: "If anyone deserves independence, it's long-suffering Kosovo." The merit of a call such as this one can easily be demonstrated by juxtaposing it to for example this one: "If anyone deserves reparations, it's long suffering African Americans." Yet, Kenny continues his appeal: "after being victimized in the past of four Balkan wars...action on the issue appears at hand." And again, one may wonder isn't the following a more noble concern for him: After being victimized for centuries and actual genocide being committed against them the surviving Native Americans require action to secure independent and sovereign states for the First Nations in North America? Then comes the knockout argument that "Serbia has started one regional war too many to be rewarded with keeping Kosovo." How sound this thinking is can be realized by considering whether it isn't the case that the US had started one major war too many in Iraq so that it cannot be rewarded by keeping the federation intact? Should not the 50 states go their merry way away from this shameful, aggressive federation?
Armed with dismal reasoning of this sort in support of the independence "solution" it is small wonder that its proponents resort to statements of inevitability, repeating them ad nauseam. Kenny is no exception: "An independent Kosovo working with the European Union and NATO is inevitable." But, we are back to mere words, and perhaps something much more serious: If it were true that independence of Kosovo is inevitable -- "the only way forward" -- why the need to say this so often? Is it in the hope that saying it makes it so? If so, that is a sign of serious personality disorder or worse: the DSM V contains several references to disorders and diseases which have as a characteristic the patient's delusional belief that mere words create reality à la biblical: "in the beginning there was logos."
Instead of dwelling on the "inevitable" let us consider what would be the result of an approach honestly concerned with regional stability. The obvious and inexpensive solution is to partition Kosovo between Serbs and Albanians by the process in which Serbia would exercise expulsive secession. The Serbian part of Kosovo would then become a part of Serbia proper while the Albanian part would become independent. Albanians have made it abundantly clear that they want nothing short of full independence. If possible, this genuine desire ought to be satisfied at least to a degree. Some give and take would be necessary, however, but partition is the only natural way to go. What would it take to accomplish this?
First, the myth that Serbs would not find this option palatable must be rejected. In fact many Serbs, including members of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU), and in particular the former President of Yugoslavia, the novelist Dobrica Cosic, have long advocated this sort of solution. Back in 1996 SANU President Despic in a newspaper interview recommended partition. What exactly it should amount to is another matter, but it is a feasible step for both Serbs and Albanians.
In fact, convincing Serbs that a specific partition is good will seem less of a problem than divorcing the Kosovo issue from the Republika Srpska issue. And this is where the key policy may lead to a happy return of foreign servicemen and women (including Americans) from both Kosovo and Bosnia. A carefully crafted package of financial incentives and policy of compensating the Serbs' loss of territory in Kosovo with empowering Republika Srpska to join Serbia would provide a long term security and stability solution for the puzzle that the Balkans have presented until recently. If it were objected that the borders of a new country would be meandering unreasonably given the size of Republika Srpska the obvious answer is: Croatia is already that way! (In order to get to Molunat from Ilok a full circle must be traveled.) This proposal would have to be further fine tuned, such as offering a provision that the UN guarantees that the Orthodox sites that remain in Albanian dominated Kosovo would enjoy protection from destruction and access secured to all Serbian pilgrims, etc.
The policy of partitioning Kosovo along with the unification of Republika Srpska with Serbia offers long term security and stability for the region. Also, it is no less natural an outcome than the unification of Germany, for example. Once NATO and EU troops pull out of Bosnia, Serbs in Republika Srpska will be safe from possible attack coming from the Muslim and Croatian Federation as the strength of the Serbian Army will function as a decisive deterrent. On the other hand the Muslim and Croatian side would have nothing to fear from a democratic government in Belgrade. Similarly, after partition of Kosovo, KFOR can pull out without worry of a renewed full-scale war between Serbs and Albanians there. A small contingent of NATO troops (preferably Americans, because of their credibility) would have to maintain a long-term presence in Macedonia to prevent a conflict erupting in the western part of the country where Albanians have a majority similar to the Kosovo situation. Albanians there might be tempted to repeat a Kosovo style uprising. American troops in Macedonia would guard against this, further contributing to the long-term security of the Balkans. The cost would, however, be an insignificant fraction of the current costs of maintaining both the Bosnia and Kosovo missions (currently surpassing $3.5 billion annually).
This entire enterprise is likely to provoke fierce resistance only from one side: the ethnic Muslims in Bosnia. However, American diplomats should have no serious problem convincing them to go along, as Muslims have enjoyed American protection and favors from the beginning of the Yugoslav crisis. While Croats were supported by Germany and Serbs supposedly by Russia, Muslims in Bosnia were the side the US chose to favor. Perhaps the honor of carrying out the implementation of this comprehensive and long-term security solution could fall on the son of the president who got the US involved in the Yugoslav mess in the first place.
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