Briefing: Russian paranoia as Kosovo prepares to go it alone

After Moscow blocked a UN solution, the province is being leant on by the West to hold back from declaring independence immediately


Is tomorrow a big deal?

No and yes. The Kosovo Albanians had been threatening to declare independence tomorrow, following the much-heralded failure of talks conducted by a "troika" of international mediators who had been given until 10 December to reach a negotiated agreement between Belgrade and Pristina after Russia blocked a UN solution last July. A Kosovo TV station has for months been counting down the days to the deadline but now it's being described as a countdown to nothing, because the ethnic Albanian leadership in Kosovo has been leant on by the West not to declare UDI, but to coordinate an independence declaration with the US and EU. That is now expected, most likely at the beginning of next year. That said, tomorrow's date is a highly charged symbol of the beginning of the endgame for Kosovo which should lead to statehood for the Serbian province of two million.

Is violence expected?

It is hoped not, but both the Albanian majority and the Serbs are getting jumpy because of the continued uncertainty about the status of the province, which has been administered by the UN since Slobodan Milosevic was bombed into ending a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing as he cracked down on separatist guerrillas in Kosovo from 1998-99. There was trouble in the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica in 2004, and there are fears that extremists on both sides could rekindle ethnic warfare. Dire predictions of conflict spreading beyond Kosovo's borders should probably be taken with a pinch of salt, however. And Nato is on hand, with reinforcements if needed, in case of major unrest. Also, the EU mediator, Wolfgang Ischinger of Germany, says that he has a commitment from the leaders in both Belgrade and Pristina that they will not resort to violence. So there are no immediate worries about the Serb army crossing back into Kosovo. But the troubled history of the Balkans is littered with broken promises.

Why can't Kosovo just declare independence and be done with it?

Because independence also requires recognition, and that is going to be withheld unless Kosovo which desperately needs international help takes an agreed path towards statehood. Russia says that the issue of Kosovo independence is a matter for the UN Security Council, but continues to oppose a vote that would allow the province to break away from Serbia. So it will be up to the EU to shepherd the fledgling state towards independence outside a UN framework, by replacing the UN mission with an EU-led civilian presence, while Nato continues to provide security. In any case, under the internationally agreed plan that Russia threatened to veto, Kosovo would not have a UN seat and would have limits placed on its sovereignty because of the continuing international presence. But there is general agreement in the West that the longer Kosovo independence is put off, the greater the danger of serious ethnic conflict between the Muslim ethnic Albanians and the orthodox Christian Serbs.

What do the Russians say?

They don't like setting a precedent by redrawing boundaries in the Balkans located in Moscow's back yard. And they are paranoid about the creeping westernisation of Russia's former satellite states, as both Serbia and Kosovo (part of former Yugoslavia) are applying to join the EU.

So what's going to happen?

The most likely scenario is that Kosovo will declare independence not UDI which will be recognised by most, if not all, of the 27 EU states. The West hopes this will take place in weeks, rather than months. The plan on the table which provides guarantees for the Serb minority has overwhelming international support. But it remains to be seen whether the Europeans have the guts to stand up to Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Further reading 'Nato's Gamble: Combining Diplomacy and Airpower in the Kosovo Crisis, 1998-99', by Dag Henriksen, Naval Institute Press, 15.99

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Sport
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Sport
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities