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
Sunday 09 December 2007
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
Top Un: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un is Maverick as he poses with all-female pilot crew of the Anti-Air Force Unit
Belle Knox: How the porn star student from Duke University became bigger than Justin Bieber
Top 10 most expensive cities in the world: Singapore named costliest place to live – but what about London?
Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete 'cheated on me' with Reeva Steenkamp, former girlfriend Samantha Taylor tells Pretoria court
Channel 4 announces two-hour TV show to be broadcast 'Live from Space' later this month
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
- 1 The future of sex: The first female condoms were derided, mistrusted and shunned - but will their modern counterparts catch on?
- 2 South African rhino finally put down after roaming Kruger park for days with horn hacked off and bullet in brain
- 3 Italian pensioner hires an escort who turns out to be his son's girlfriend
- 4 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 5 Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role to marry Natasha Richardson
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: A small but growing chain of boutique hot...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ba...
£45 - 60k Per Annum: Charter Selection: Highly profitable leisure brand, marke...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...