Friday, February 22, 2008

Russia Threatens War Over Kosovo

Serbs Protesting Kosovo Independence Declaration

I have been writing about this for years; mainly trying to get peace groups to head this off. Unfortunately Iraq has distracted the Peace Community and the world's attention away from other hot spots. This highlights the importance of being proactive about mediating conflicts before situations are allowed to deteriorate.

(back in November of 2007, I put together a list of the World's Biggest hot spots. Kosovo made the list, but it has quickly climbed to near the top in recent days).

Russia's tough talk is more about allowing the Bear to growl, than allowing it to bite (I hope). However, the U.S. has fought two wars in the Balkans, and the U.S. and Russia came extremely close to a military conflict in 1999, during the U.S.'s second attack on what was then Yugoslavia. Russia is not all about "talk" on this issue. Russian troops have been sent into Kosovo before (uninvited). There is no reason to believe that this couldn't happen again.

The Kosovo mess is yet another remnant of Bill Clinton and his misguided & aggressive foreign policy. This is why U.S. and European military involvement there without a stronger consensus and better cooperation with the Russians and the UN, was so shortsighted. I knew that it would lead to problems later on and that Kosovo (once a protectorate of the U.S.) would probably make a bid for independence, with U.S. and NATO backing.

Russia's NATO representative, Dmitry Rogozin, stated over the weekend that Russia may see that it has no choice but to use force, if NATO and the EU continued down this road (meddling in Eastern European affairs, supporting independence movements in sovereign countries, among other things). However, other reports indicate that, after the statement, Rogozin seemed to back away somewhat from the earlier message. But the statement still set off alarm bells around the World.

This is the culmination of the U.S. treating Russia like a poor little step-child for the past 15 years or so, giving the country no respect and rubbing the Cold War in their faces at every opportunity. Russians (who once leaned towards the U.S. & the West) were turned off by this treatment, and eventually turned inward and became more Nationalistic. Soon, Russians wanted to gain back the kind of prestige that they once had during the Soviet years, when they were not pushed around. This anti-American backlash provided former KGB thugs with enough support to seize power in Russia in the late 1990's, and they have been able to hold on ever since, due to continued U.S. arrogance. So in essence, the U.S. has unwittingly brought hardliners to power in Russia, which has in turn led to a rollback of Democracy there.

I just can't understand why the U.S. chooses to instigate and foment war and tensions in Europe, destabilize relations with Russia, expand NATO, meddle in the internal affairs of sovereign nations (when other tactics and forms of support may be more appropriate), invade Countries that are no real threat to the United States, anger its enemies as well as its friends around the world, shoot down satellites that don't need shooting down just to show off its military capability, etc.... when we have so many domestic, a rehab of social security, fundamental improvements to infrastructure, an economy that is slowly tanking, huge deficits and a national debt that will soon become unmanageable, sky high gas prices, stagnant wages, troubled schools, a housing mess, better services for Veterans, a globalized economy of which the U.S. is not adapting to fast enough, climate change, etc... the list goes on and on.

Now we are facing the possibility of a third war in the Balkans since the 1990's. This is how the Serbs put it back in December when negotiations failed.

This is yet another example of foreign policy that the Clinton's and the Bush's are in lock step agreement on. The war in Yugoslavia was one of the key issues that turned me against Bill Clinton (although there were many others). This is one of the reasons why Hillary must not become the Democratic nominee or God forbid the next President of the United States. When you put Bill and Hillary together a pattern eventually emerges- that is, a pattern of bad judgements, particularly on matters of foreign policy. Bill and Hillary's foreign policy is not that much different from the Neo-Conservative Republican foreign policy. If you look at the goals of the PNAC (Project for a New American Century)- The seeds of the Bush doctrine- you will find several policy points that are in line with the Clinton's view on foreign affairs.

Well, thanks Slick Willy (and Bush & Co.) for yet another foreign policy mess.

Hopefully this situation can be diffused calmly, but Bush & Co. gives me no confidence whatsoever in their diplomatic abilities. They know how to start wars. But they aren't very good at heading them off or ending them once they have begun.

This event (the independence declaration) is not a shock. Everyone already knew that it was coming. However, the consequences of such a decision were always the problem, because of their unpredictability. Kosovo has been an autonomous protectorate since 1999, so for all practical purposes, it was already in control of many of its own affairs. But for the Serbs, it's about honor, and the history and tradition that they have invested in Kosovo, as well as an issue of territorial integrity.


Anonymous said...

For months I had warned that violence would erupt if Kosovo declared or was granted independence without Serbia's consent. The Serbian population would be outraged. Peace in the Balkans is very important for our European allies, but Russia is aligned with Serbia. Unfortunately, our relations with Russia are no longer very cordial. Furthermore, Russia's recent activities spark much concern for what Putin & his United Russia might be planning. For several months, the President, the State Department, and various European leaders have pushed for an independent Kosovo. Now everyone seems to want Serbia and Kosovo to come to a peaceful agreement despite Kosovo leaders looking to declare independence. Finally, would not an independent Kosovo set a poor precedent?

Almost ten years ago, NATO had to invade Kosovo and the Balkans in order to stop the genocide of Albanian Kosovars (Muslims) by Serbians (Orthodox Christians). As part of NATO, the United States bombed Serbia for 78 days to force Serbia from what they view as their nation’s cradle, the province of Kosovo, which has been a part of Serbia since the 12th century. NATO has remained in Kosovo as peace keepers ever since, and the Serbs of Kosovo have seen their churches and monasteries smashed and vandalized and have been “ethnically cleansed” in the scores of thousands from their ancestral province. The remaining Serb population of 120,000 is largely confined to enclaves guarded by NATO troops.
NATO had appealed to the United Nations to allow Kosovo to become an independent nation. Russia is partnered with Serbia and has threatened, along with China, to veto any attempt by the UN Security Council to recognize Kosovo as a nation. Many peace conferences have been held over the past several years to push Kosovo and Serbia to make a peace deal. Serbia has offered to recognize Kosovo as an autonomous state within Serbia, but Kosovo wants independence, which Serbia will not allow. Some European countries within the European Union, along with the United States, have said they would recognize Kosovo’s independence, but Russia has rebuffed that activity. More importantly, some countries within the European Union (primarily Spain) have voiced that they are not comfortable with Europe and the United States simply recognizing Kosovo’s independence. Spain has been struggling with Basque and Catalan separatists in northern Spain who are seeking independence from Spain. Theoretically, if Spain simply recognizes Kosovo’s independence, then the Basques would argue for recognition of their independence. For the same reason, China would veto any UN Security Council action as they do not wish to recognize Tibet’s independence. European Union candidate Turkey could raise the issue as to why the EU and United States have not formally recognized the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is an ethnically homogeneous community that their declared independence 25 years ago. The European Union has been negotiating with Serbia that if the Serbs recognize Kosovo’s independence, then Serbia could have an easier entrance into the EU, which many in Serbia deeply desire for economic reasons. Russia is not very pleased with the EU as many of the former Soviet satellite nations have joined the EU and NATO or are preparing to join. President Putin of Russia has threatened to recognize Transneistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia in retaliation for the West's recognition of Kosovo

Ten years ago, Russia had a very weak economy, but Russia’s national economy is booming today due to the surge in prices for oil and natural gas. Russia has been using that commodity to pressure, or more accurately “blackmail”, the former satellite nations to keep closer ties with Russia than with the EU, if any at all.

Now, Kosovo has declared independence, recognized by the European Union and President Bush. But this is not the end of the story. It is only the preface to a new history of the Balkans, a region that has known too much history. A bridge over the Ibar River that runs through the city of Mitrovica, dividing Albanian Kosovars from Serbian Kosovars, may now become a larger symbol of East-West division. Today, Serbian radicals have violently protested by breaking into our embassy in Belgrade. Of historical note, the First World War was ignited by a Serbian nationalist assassinating the heir to the Austrian throne Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. Of further note, Serbia was our ally during both World Wars.
So, I ask, what do we have to gain from an independent Kosovo? Absolutely nothing.

Anonymous said...

Hello, May the Lord have mercy on Kosovo.

Russia and Serbia are misunderstood by the everyone who is not Orthodox.

I am hoping to attach a photo from the new Russian President lighting a candle with Serbias President.

Kosovo is as sacred to the Orthodox as Rome is to Catholics.

If the EU gave Rome to a Moslem sect, then the Catholics around the world would rightly be defiant.

Kosovo carries the same place in the heart of all Orthodox.

It just does.

Eventually, the US will trip its'[ way into a fight with Serbs who went too far down the highway into Kosovo.

It will be a blunder more than intending to fight with Mother Russia.

It seems impossible to calculate the smallness of my optimism that a blunder will not lead to WWIII.