July 9, 2007

Meanwhile, Back At The Quagmire

The quagmire of Kosovo's status continues at the United Nations, thanks to Russian refusals to consider the independence of the province. Eight years after UN intervention and administration, the Security Council warns of more violence in the area as the talks have stalled yet again on the final status of the breakaway territory:

A senior United States diplomat, speaking at a conference in Croatia over the weekend, cast doubt on a quick resolution of Kosovo’s future, suggesting that an agreement that would enable it to claim independence might not come until next year.

The assessment by Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, is likely to be seen as a setback for Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leadership. This spring, Western officials had held out hope that the future of the province, which technically remains part of Serbia, would be resolved within weeks. Mr. Fried told delegates at a conference on NATO’s enlargement in this seaside Croatian resort that he hoped Kosovo’s future could be resolved in the months leading up to the alliance’s summit meeting in Romania next April.

“I can’t give a precise date, but I suspect it will be a number of months before the Bucharest summit,” he said.

Mr. Fried’s comments are the clearest indication to date that the United States now acknowledges that it is unlikely that Russia will soon agree to a United Nations plan that would grant the province independence under supervision of a mission led by the European Union. Senior European Union politicians at the conference on Friday and Saturday also cast doubt on whether an agreement could be reached this summer.

Russia has refused to consider independence. Vladimir Putin's government has demanded that the issue remain between Kosovo's ethic-Albanian leadership and the Serbian government. Had a resolution been possible between the two, the UN would not have spent the last eight years keeping the two separated, with occasional failures. That demand effectively negates any UN Security Council decisions on Kosovo' status -- and it extends the current standoff indefinitely.

Russia has always seen the Balkans as inside its sphere of influence, and the Slavs of Serbia as ethnic cousins under their protection. They want to ensure the strength and allegiance of Serbia, and in this case that means keeping Kosovo as part of Serbia, regardless of what Kosovo wants. The Kremlin also wants to re-establish its diplomatic writ in eastern Europe, which has declined dramatically since the end of the Soviet Union. The breakup of Yugoslavia embarrassed the Russians, and they do not want to see that process continue.

This lack of progress will have consequences. The Kosovars have lost patience with the UNSC's vacillations. The country has been occupied for eight years with no political progress at all. Both Ban Ki-Moon and NATO's secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warn that extending this delay will create pressures on the ground that will result in an outbreak of violence, perhaps escalating to civil war. However, with Russia's veto, it appears that the Security Council has no possible way of resolving Kosovo's status towards independence -- and any other solution will lead to civil war.

The UN and the US believe that they can resolve the issue next year. That's beginning to sound very familiar in Kosovo. As long as the Russians see the Serbs as vital to their national interest, the UN will not be able to resolve the issue -- which means that the US and EU need to consider bypassing the UN altogether if they want to put an end to the quagmire.


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Comments (18)

Posted by hermie | July 9, 2007 6:46 AM

And even with the evidence of the UN's continuing failures, the MSM still proclaim that they are capable of handling Iraq as well.

Posted by Bennett | July 9, 2007 7:21 AM

The Russians are holding things up in the Balkans and China won't let anything meaningful happen in the Sudan.

I think these countries continue to operate according to whatever they perceive is in their own best interests. Very strange, I know. But maybe I have that wrong. I'm sure someone somewhere can me how it's really all America's fault. Perhaps it's just that we haven't sacrified enough of our own self-interest at the altar of the UN to inspire other countries to follow our lead. Maybe that's it.

Posted by emdfl | July 9, 2007 7:39 AM

Kosovo, hmmm, wasn't that one of bill's successful wars?

Posted by Mel W. | July 9, 2007 7:40 AM

Dear Cap'n Ed: I've always enjoyed your blog, having found it about a year ago (I'm also a Minnesotan). This is my first post too.

I have to disagree with your conclusion above. I worked in Kosovo for 2 years as a Russian linguist, with the Russian 13th Tactical Group in Kamenica, north of Gnilanje. Also, one of my best friends and former roomates from the Navy is an Albanian whose family comes from Pec, on the west of Kosovo. So, I'd like to think I have some neutral analysis on this issue.

First, I disagree with the idea that the "country" has been occupied. The formerly autonomous Serbian province of Kosovo is currently occupied by international forced, because of a lie that there was ethnic cleansing going on in the area and that the Albanians were the ones being slaughtered - which turned out to be false. As of yet no mass graves nor evidence that the conflict in Kosovo between the Serbs and the Albs was anything more than a two-sided violent clash with minimal casualties (as compared to the rest of the Balkans).

Second, I don't know that we want to reward what could be instigation by a group with a new, independent national identify. Kosovo, while having autonomy over self-governance for many years, did not have independence from Serbia. The conflict remains, and probably will forever, regarding who's land it was "first." The Albanians continue to regard Kosovo, and much of Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Greece as part of greater Albania, taken from them over the years. In fact the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) is but one part of a larger organization that seeks to instigate violence and disorger in these other regions. I remember vividly an incident in Skopje (where I went to booze it up with Hottie Macedonian babes) where there was armed conflict north of the city and into and out of the city, just before I reached it, of which the KLA was part (or whatever that wing's name was). In addition, attacks on and intimidation of Serbs has continued to this day with the effect of removing the Serbian population almost wholly from Kosovo. Yes, the Serbs did treats the Albs as 2nd-class citizens, but that doesn't mean we should allow a reciprocal effect now.

Finally, removing Kosovo from Serbian possession is an poor idea for economic reasons. All, and I repeat ALL, of the industry and assertive economic activity comes from the Serbs, not the Albanians. Currently, Kosovo is a catering-industry - catering to the U.N. forces. That is it. It is a country full of stolen automobiles, goods, no working industry, serious goods (e.g., gold near Mitrovica), and great farming. Yet very little exploitation of goods, or industrial use of what they do have is done. I saw ghost-buildings of larger industrial plants, and I saw no discernible employment beyond what the U.N. offered, or what could be offered to the U.N.

I guess I come down on the Russians with this point, I frankly don't think that handing that country over to the Albanians is a great idea, but is a shoddy one. Finally, I worry about the purported (if not proven) ties to other Islamic nations that have been established through Mosque-financing and organizational ideology.


Posted by Robert Arvanitis | July 9, 2007 7:40 AM

While I am loathe to support the Russians in anything, consider the following on Kosovo: Muslim Albanians flood illegally across an international border, breed until they tip the demographic scales, conduct their own ethnic cleansing whenever and wherever they get the upper hand, and then finally demand sovereignty.

So the Russians instinctively back their co-religionists in Serbia. How will WE feel when the same thing happens in Arizona or So. California?

Posted by Lew | July 9, 2007 7:51 AM

Russian foreign policy is still "stuck on stupid", trying to recover the glory days of the old empire.

Just like Mussolini trying to recreate the old Roman Empire with his strutting and puffing around the stage like some vaudevillian cartoon figure. Or Hitler trying to relive his grotesque Aryan fantasies of some mystical Teutonic golden age that never was. And the Mullahs of Iran trying to bring the world back to some 7th Century never-never land. And now Putin is trying to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again and reconstruct the Empire of old.

The problem isn't necessarily the fantasy, we all have them and most adults know how to live with them without killing people. The problem is the price in lives that these dreamers are willing to extract from humanity to demand their fulfillment. Historically, the bill has been nothing short of astronomical, and therefore these dreamers are dangerous beyond belief!

Posted by gaffo | July 9, 2007 8:46 AM


why is there no mention of Iraqnam?

Posted by richard mcenroe | July 9, 2007 10:00 AM

Robert Arvanitis -- we'll declare an amnesty. Haven't you been paying attention?

"Kosovo, hmmm, wasn't that one of bill's successful wars?"

"A one-year tour...." Theme, Gilligan's Presidency

Posted by David M | July 9, 2007 10:09 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 07/09/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by Gwedd | July 9, 2007 10:23 AM


Well, my only real question is why United Staes Military forces are even in Kosovo to begin with. We have better uses for them than perpetuating a UN fiasco.

If Kosovo is of such importance to the European union, why are WE there instead of the much-vaunted European military?

Kosovo is Europe's problem. Let Europe prove it can handle problems in it's own backyard before telling the rest of the world how to act.

Bring all US forces home from Kosovo NOW! In fact, I'd even consider pulling out ALL US forces from Europe. Why are we still there, and still paying rent for the facilities we "occupy"?


Posted by unclesmrgol | July 9, 2007 10:48 AM

Russia's right on this one.

Posted by Blaise MacLean | July 9, 2007 11:26 AM

Just following up on Mel W's comment, I agree with him, but I come at it from even another direction.

The Sebs have received a lot of bad publicity over the last 15 years, and rightly so. They have been the authors of their own misfortune. That said, Serbia is a valid, existing member state of the United Nations, and Kosovo is legally a part of that state.As a state, Serbia has every right to refuse to consent to its own dismemberment and, indeed, it has a duty to defend its terrirorial integrity.

I am therefore quite troubled by what seems to me to be interference in the territorial integrity of Serbia by the UN. Put another way, by what right does the UN advocate for, push, organize and orchestrate the dismantling of one of its member states? What gives the US, the UK or, for that matter, Russia any standing to even discuss the borders of Serbia, let alone change them?

The US had a civil war in the last century...had the UN existed, would Americans have tolerated the UN pushing for Confederate independence?

I'm a Canadian, and we have had our difficulties with the issue of separatism (which I hope is now behind us). This was a completely internal matter to Canada. I would not want the UN to involve itself in "resolving" this issue should it ever arise again. I do not like what seems to be a precedent being set here in regards to Kosovo...I particularly do not like it in view of how France is able to manipulate the UN.

So, so far as I am concerened, the UN should butt out.

Posted by Andrew X | July 9, 2007 1:11 PM

Gwedd is quite correct, and I would add that the US is missing a HUGE opportunity by staying involved in Kosovo.

Namely, the opportunity to FORCE our European allies (whom I have unfortunately been prone to call ' our "allies" ') to s--t or get off the pot when it comes to the defense of their own civilization, much less the West overall.

Are THEY going to solve the problem? Antagonize the Russians if necessary? Keep the Serbs in line? Keep the Albanians from going off the deep end? Pick a side, and thus antagonize the other, with all the downsides that entails? Put a little bit of that ‘soft power’ to work?? Explain what they are doing and why to the sanctimonious mandarins of the UN, Le Monde, and Harvard?

In short, get their hands dirty? While we stand aside and, quite frankly, at least offer more sympathy and verbal support than we have received in many instances of late?

The health of the alliance depends upon forcing Europe to solve at least THIS on their own, and we should be out of there tomorrow for that reason above and beyond all else.

Posted by Dave Thul | July 9, 2007 1:16 PM

I spent 7 months in Kosovo in 2004, so here's my view.
First, there were some mass graves, but most of the slaughter (from both sides) occured 10 and 20 people at a time. I talked with some of the ones that survived.
Second, the US is there because no other countries troops are effective during civil unrest. During the country-wide riots in April of 2004, only the US sector stayed pacified, and troops from my unit were sent to bail out the Greek and French troops.
Third, whatever the status of the region turns out to eventually be, the area will continue to suffer terrible poverty until some resolution is reached. No reasonable business will invest in a region that doesn't know who will govern a few months out.
And fourth, after seeing the UN in action in Kosovo, I can only say how glad I am that they declined to help in Iraq. The UN has too many chiefs, and no indians.

Posted by Andrew X | July 9, 2007 2:41 PM

Dave -

While deferring to one who was there, I'd mention that "the US is there because no other countries troops are effective during civil unrest"... is in fact the entire problem with the alliance. That fact is a terrible detriment to American interests for reasons too numerous to list, and it must change. And the only way it will is if the West's sanctimony brigades, and we all in general know of whom I speak, are FORCED to deal with the real and bloody consequences of their sanctimony... such as chaos on the European frontier.

Them learning to be "effective during civil unrest" will also mean a great deal more sympathy for US actions and interests, and a great deal more willingness to, philosophically at least, thump their activists, academics, and propogandists on the skull for their constant work in support of terrorists, totalitarians, and barbarians.

Leftism is based on the idea that all hard choices are only hard because an oppressor makes them necessary, and that anything done to struggle against Western Civilization is de facto good and justified.

It is time for the purveyors of such childish nonsense to live with the hard and bloody consequences of what they do. Spare them those consequences, and they will never cease, and the West may very likely crash on the shoals they so have assiduously built.

Posted by km | July 9, 2007 4:41 PM

I think I agree with Andrew here - let teh UN do it with all European troops. Let them fail until they lean how to do it right or quit. And let them suffer all of the consequences and expense.

They reflexively hate anything we do (even though they would equally hate us for doing the opposite had we chosen it).

Posted by msr | July 9, 2007 8:43 PM

I fail to understand under what authority the UN and NATO can unilaterally declare that a country shall be separated into two.

It was none of our business, we had no interest there, and if we felt we had to get involved, we joined the wrong side.

Posted by Drew | July 9, 2007 11:34 PM

Russia and the Balkans?

I guess that the Russians are too dense to learn anything from the absolute devestation they suffered in WW-1, and the resulting Revolution which committed them to 70-years of Soviet dictatorship.

Someone with half-a-brain would run, not walk, away from a situation that had caused them so much pain in the past.