Monday, August 21, 2006

"Kosovo is lost"

Alexander Hamilton once advised a colleague in 1782 that he sought to describe the world as it is, not as it ought to be.

From this perspective of Hamiltonian realism, let me address the question of Kosovo.

But first, allow me--an Orthodox Slav--to indulge in a mourning period. The monasteries and churches of Kosovo are a priceless patrimony not only to Serbs but to the larger Orthodox and Slav communities, centers of spirituality, a place where the Byzantine humanism of the earlier second millenium found its greatest expression (and in turn bequeathed this to the West to help start the Renaissance). The demographic shifts that have taken place in Kosovo are also reminders that borders and even states themselves are not static and frozen in time but subject to change--and that no border is eternal.

But realistically, the fiction of UN resolutions that the end goal in Kosovo is some sort of substantial autonomy should be exposed. The destiny of the province is going to be independence. Russia may play games but is not going to go to the mat to prevent this from happening; the Chinese, as Chris Marsh and I wrote in the summer 2006 issue of The National Interest, are deeply concerned about precedents and about any perceived American diktat in imposing a settlement--but are not likely to a stand on Kosovo.

There is no more such thing as "conditional independence" as there is "conditional pregnancy"--conditional independence is the sop to the consciences of the Tony Blairs and Bill Clintons who said the 1999 air campaign was about preserving tolerance and multiethnicity and who don't want to admit that Kosovo will follow the same logic as the emergence of other modern states in the Balkans, beginning with the massive exchanges of populations between Greece and Turkey (in the aftermath of ethnic cleansing and wars)--that states (or sub-state units as in Bosnia) are based on the principle of one government, one ethnicity. A bi-communal federation on the old Cyprus model won't work--if it couldn't provide a functioning government in an 80:20 split (Greeks and Turks), it is even less likely to work in a 90:10 arrangement (Albanians/Serbs).

Perhaps something can be done for the Serbs of Kosovo as was done for the Aland Islands in Finland--the creation of an autonomous, demilitarized, monolingually Serbian-speaking administrative province in the northern areas combined with some sort of extra-territoriality of the holy sites along the model of some of the properties in the Holy Land. (Perhaps the Aland precedent could have worked for Kosovo as a whole before, but we may be too late for that now).

Can we end up creating in the Balkans for Serbia and for Serbs a situation analagous to that of Hungary? The expansion of the EU--and the way in which Slovakia's and then Romania's feet were held to the fire on questions of minority rights and reforms created a situation where the EU has, in essence, solved the Gordian knot of "Greater Hungary" versus "national self-determination". Ethnic Hungarians can move back and forth across borders; Hungarians from Hungary can, in theory, buy property in countries where their ancestors may have been "ethnically cleansed". Could not the principle of "euroregions" be set up across state lines for Serbs, for Albanians, and others in the region?

I'm optimistic and pessimistic at the same time. Optimistic because the EU solution could provide, in theory, a workable solution; pessimistic because of the time it will take, whether Europe and the U.S. have the willpower to see this solution through and whether the short-term human costs will poison the well for a long-term solution. The Hungarian question is by no means "closed"; it has taken several generations for true Franco-German (or German-Danish) reconciliation to take hold.

All of this also requires constant engagement and involvement. I think that the preference is to "cut and run" which doesn't bode well for the kind of involved, creative diplomacy needed to take short-term divisions of a state to produce some sort of longer-term regional unity.

Mr. Gvozdev:

Do you think that the birth pangs of a greater euroregion can be discerned within the final throes of Balkanization? There is another Muslim state, i.e. Turkey, ahead of Kosovo on the waiting list, and the core EU members are in no hurry there. By the time that that case is decided for better or worse, I fear that the dust will have long settled on the final solution in Kosovo.
The Kosovo War has been one of the seminal events of the last 30 years (the others being the Iran-Iraq War and the US-Iraq War).

Yugoslavia was an un-official member of NATO during the Cold War. US & EU went to war against a country that was not their enemy, was not a threat, and was not seeking confrontation.

US & EU violated the UN Charter by interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.

They lied about the so-called humanitarian disaster in Kosovo and effectively supported a terrorist organization in a civil war against legitimate state authority. They killed 10,000 people to avert a disaster that did not exist (as later investigations showed).

The lessons are clear:

US & EU will do anything to advance their whims (i.e. actions that do not make any strategic sense).

If Serbia can be broken up at the whim of US & EU, then Russia, Romania, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, etc. can be broken up too.

Ethnic incidents can be manufactured and terrorist groups can be set up as agent provocateur to incite ethnic unrest.

US & EU policies in this area could be perceived as threats to international order and peace. Their machinations, under the guise of humanitarian intervention, abrogates the doctrine of state sovereignty established after the Peace of Westphalia. This is a dangerous Jacobin position and will be resisted by all other state actors in the world.
For Kosovo: why not partition and give the upper part back to Serbia?

Why do you want to keep Serbs among the enemy population?
Once perception has taken hold, difficult to change "reality." Tipping point for Kosovo independence has been reached and is not going to be changed, it is now a matter of when and under what conditions. Serbs need to start getting ready for trying to influence that outcome rather than cling to vain hopes that big brother Ivan to the east or perhaps new big brother further east will prevent it from happening. Russians are prepared to trade Kosovo for other separatist regions.

TUrkey (and Ukraine for that matter) is an 800 lb gorilla for the EU. The Western Balkans can easily jump Turkey in the queue for the EU just as Romania and Bulgaria did. We are talking here about small countries that finish the European jigsaw puzzle and wouldn't overload the EU in teh way that Turky would.
Anonymous 2:10 PM:

The EU has always been quick to expedite entry for predominantly Protestant or Catholic nations. (They let Orthodox Greece in when it went democracy, but look at the headaches that has caused.) But I doubt that the EU will let a Muslim mouse, however small, slip in without first deciding what to do with the gorilla. And with the fate of Kosovo and Serbia all but sealed, why would it bother? Besides, it has enough consolidation and expansion problems on its plate without taking one for Serbia.
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